Current link to the project at the ARPA-E website:

Original U.S. Department of Energy press release, November 23, 2015 – 3:36pm:
“Secretary Moniz Awards $125 Million for 41 Transformational Energy Technology Projects Ahead of COP21 in Paris”
(Marine BioEnergy is listed #3 of 7 featured projects)

Daily Breeze, by Cynthia Washicko, May 14, 2017
Experimental Project Off Catalina Island Aims to Make Fuel Out of Kelp

IEEE Spectrum, post by Evan Ackerman, March 15, 2017
Reporting from the ARPA-E 2017 Innovation Summit, with a photo of a model kelp farm below.
Robotic Kelp Farms Promise an Ocean Full of Carbon-Neutral, Low-Cost Energy

Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum


Marine BioEnergy, Inc. Press Release Dated:  November 23, 2015

Disruptive Supplies of Affordable Biomass Feedstock Grown in the Open Ocean
Marine BioEnergy, Inc., PI Brian H. Wilcox

Marine BioEnergy, Inc. announced today that it was awarded $2.1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).  The funding will be used to research and develop open ocean farming of kelp as a biomass feedstock.  The kelp will be processed into biocrude and further to hydrocarbons ready for commercial refineries.

Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is one of the fastest growing producers of biomass. The open ocean is an immense untapped region for collecting solar energy. Kelp does not grow naturally in the open ocean because it needs an attachment at ~ 5-25 meters depth and also needs key nutrients available in deep water or near shore but not necessarily available at the surface in the open ocean. The concept proposes an economical grid for attachment and access to nutrients, making it possible to farm kelp in the extensive regions of the open ocean.

This novel approach will grow kelp attached to large grids in the open ocean permanently towed by inexpensive robotic submarines. These submarines will keep the farms near the surface during the day to gather sunlight for photosynthesis. At night, the submarines will take the farms down to the deeper, cold water where the kelp can absorb nutrients that may be inadequate in the warmer surface waters. The farms will also be taken to deeper water during storms or to avoid passing ships. Once every three months, the submarines will move the kelp farms to rendezvous with harvesters. The kelp will be processed into biocrude suitable for delivery to refineries.  If this disruptive new technology works, kelp will become an abundant and affordable feedstock for biocrude, and will assist in meeting the ARPA-E goal of replacing imported energy.  For additional details, see

Marine BioEnergy, Inc. received this competitive award from ARPA-E’s OPEN 2015 program, which serves as an open call to scientists and engineers for transformational technologies outside the scope of ARPA-E’s existing focused programs. Through both open and focused solicitations, ARPA-E funds technologies that display technical promise and commercial impact but are too early for private-sector investment. For additional information about ARPA-E, please visit