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January 29, 2024

Louisiana Partnership Wins Largest Grant Ever Awarded by U.S. National Science Foundation

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. GNO, Inc. supported the grant application process over the past year as a member of the Core Leadership Team, facilitating the coordination and strategy for workforce development, entrepreneurship, and commercialization components.

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 at a press conference 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.

“This award builds on the foundation created by the GNO, Inc.-led H2theFuture initiative, which positioned Louisiana as the nation’s leading location for a hydrogen evolution, and a model destination for coalition building,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “Over the past year, our team has worked hand in hand with leading organizations across Louisiana to demonstrate the meaningful impact that our state and region bring to the nation’s all-of-the-above energy 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. Louisiana is one of the world’s leading producers of energy, chemicals and petrochemicals.

“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.”

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.

“Our region’s higher education institutions will be providing essential components of the grant,” said Lacy McManus, Executive Director of Future Energy for Greater New Orleans Inc. “They are committed to bolstering research efforts and establishing responsive training programs which fuel innovation and prepare the skilled workers of tomorrow. Success in these areas are critical components towards attracting global business investments in the energy sector, creating jobs and catalyzing economic growth throughout the state.”

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.; ExxonMobil; Shell; and Baker Hughes. For a complete list of partners and quotes from FUEL partner leaders, visit the website. (Add link.)

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 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.

GNO, Inc. is proud to work alongside LSU as project manager for the Tech Hubs application, leveraging the collective expertise of the GNOwind Alliance and partners across Southeast Louisiana for another transformative investment. Designation as a Tech Hub unlocks the opportunity for Louisiana to secure an additional $75 million in funding to accelerate offshore wind research and development in Louisiana.