LSU-led Team Wins Largest Grant Ever Awarded by U.S. National Science Foundation

January 29, 2024

Highly competitive NSF Engines grant will provide up to $160 million to support Louisiana’s energy industry, create jobs and develop the energy workforce.

A statewide effort led by LSU with more than 50 public and private partners has won the largest and most competitive grant ever awarded by the U.S. National Science Foundation – up to $160 million over the next 10 years.

The NSF Engines grant will support Louisiana’s energy industry, create jobs in the energy sector, develop innovative solutions to energy challenges and help train the world’s energy workforce. The NSF announced the award earlier today in Washington, D.C.

The focus of the grant is energy transition and decarbonization of Louisiana’s industrial corridor.  Louisiana is a world leader in energy expertise and solutions, with more than 250,000 people working in the energy, chemical and petrochemical industries. Louisiana’s geographic location and its existing infrastructure of plants, refineries and 50,000 miles of pipelines place our state at the epicenter of energy transition. This grant will position Louisiana to be the global research and development leader for the expanding energy industry into the future.  

Louisiana’s team, called Future Use of Energy in Louisiana, or FUEL, includes private energy companies, universities, community and technical colleges, and state agencies that will work together to drive technology and workforce development in support of Louisiana’s energy industry.  

FUEL will work to solve emerging challenges in areas like carbon capture, transport and storage; hydrogen; use of carbon dioxide to produce low-carbon fuels and essential carbon-based products; water use and management; sustainable manufacturing; and policy development.  

The state, through Louisiana Economic Development, will also contribute to the project and its projected broad economic impacts with an additional $67.5 million over the next decade. This will include funds to help the higher education partners build a world-class team to convert research into practical and useful solutions. 

The FUEL effort is in alignment with the energy priority of LSU’s Scholarship First Agenda to solve the most pressing problems for Louisiana and the globe. Led by the LSU Institute for Energy Innovation, established through a transformative $27.5 million gift from Shell in 2022, LSU’s energy focus elevates Louisiana as one of the world’s leading producers of energy, chemicals and petrochemicals. As the state’s manufacturing plants and refineries adapt to growing global market demand for lower-carbon solutions and reduced reliance on carbon-intensive fuels, FUEL will help the energy industry identify, research and develop new technologies to ensure the economic benefits, jobs and investments created by these innovations stay in Louisiana.  

“Leading the FUEL team and being selected for this transformational grant affirms what we already knew – that LSU is one of the nation’s premier research universities, poised to change the lives of the people of Louisiana and the world,” LSU President William F. Tate IV said. “By teaming up with our partners across the state in education, industry and government, we are leveraging the intellectual capital of our state’s best and brightest to make a difference for the energy industry and for the people of every parish in Louisiana.”  

The FUEL team is led by LSU’s Andrew Maas, principal investigator on the project and associate vice president for research in the LSU Office of Innovation & Ecosystem Development under the LSU Office of Research & Economic Development. 

“This culminating effort is trajectory-changing for energy transition research, commercialization and workforce initiatives in Louisiana and all organizations involved,” Maas said. 

LSU Vice President of Research & Economic Development Robert Twilley said energy stakeholders throughout Louisiana are eager to elevate the state’s economy and environment.  

“Louisiana has long been an energy leader with more than 250,000 skilled workers in the oil and gas, chemical and petrochemical industries,” Twilley said. “This NSF grant represents an unparalleled opportunity to educate and retain skilled workers and to expand our future energy economy.”

FUEL partners include the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources; the Louisiana Board of Regents; the Baton Rouge Area Chamber; Greater New Orleans, Inc.; Shell; ExxonMobil; and Baker Hughes. For a complete list of partners, quotes from FUEL partner leaders, photos and other assets, visit the LSU media center

The NSF considered more than 700 concepts before allowing 188 teams to submit grant proposals last January. In early June, the NSF did a virtual site visit that helped narrow the field to 16 finalists, including the FUEL team (referred to as ELITE in the earlier articles). In late August, a group of reviewers from the NSF conducted a multi-day site visit to the LSU flagship campus in Baton Rouge before making the final selection and award. At the August site visit, NSF met with more than 125 individuals involved in the project, including five Louisiana university presidents.  

“The inaugural NSF Engines awards demonstrate our enduring commitment to create opportunity everywhere and enable innovation anywhere,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “Through these NSF Engines, NSF aims to expand the frontiers of technology and innovation and spur economic growth across the nation through unprecedented investments in people and partnerships. NSF Engines hold significant promise to elevate and transform entire geographic regions into world-leading hubs of innovation.” 

This historic win for Louisiana is the latest transformative federal investment in LSU to lead energy transition for the nation. Last month, the Economic Development Administration designated an LSU-led consortium, Gulf Louisiana Offshore Wind, or GLOW, Propeller, as one of only 31 national Tech Hubs positioned to revitalize American manufacturing, create jobs and strengthen U.S. economic and national security within a decade. Designation as a Tech Hub unlocks the opportunity for LSU to secure an additional $75 million in funding to accelerate offshore wind research and development in Louisiana. In addition, LSU recently secured $5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for a Direct Air Capture Hub to demonstrate a critical component of carbon capture. LSU also shares in the $50 million Build Back Better award to Greater New Orleans, Inc. for H2theFuture to accelerate hydrogen development across the region. And researchers from LSU and the University of Delaware have received a four-year, $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or NSF EPSCOR, program to find ways to make our everyday products that come from oil and gas out of CO2 instead, to lessen our carbon footprint.  

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