UL Lafayette helping fuel Louisiana’s energy management with historic grant


The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is an integral part of a statewide effort that received the largest and most competitive grant ever awarded by the National Science Foundation – up to $160 million over the next 10 years. The statewide effort – Future Use of Energy in Louisiana, or FUEL – includes more than 50 public and private partners from across Louisiana.

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 on Monday, Jan. 29, in Washington, D.C.

“As a partner in the FUEL consortium team, we look forward to contributing our expertise in the evolution of the energy economy across a range of technical areas,” said Dr. Jonathan Raush, principal investigator for UL Lafayette on the grant and associate professor of mechanical engineering. “This NSF Engines award will provide opportunities to expand and strengthen both University and industry collaborations, conduct use-inspired R&D, technology commercialization and workforce development. Project focus areas of the consortium, ranging from development of the industrial hydrogen economy to water management, energy efficiency, sustainable manufacturing and more are key growth areas for UL Lafayette. Working collaboratively, the execution of these programs will help move Louisiana to be the global research and development leader for solving energy-related challenges.”

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 the 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 NSF Engines grant will help researchers from UL Lafayette work alongside all of our University partners and leverage over seven decades of work with the oil and gas industry,” said Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, vice president for Research, Innovation and Economic Development at UL Lafayette. “Over the past 20 years, the University has diversified its energy-related research and academic programs to include biofuels, solar, CCS, blue and green hydrogen, EV and battery technologies as well as innovative energy materials resulting in significant economic development and technological successes. Our ‘all-of-the-above’ energy management strategy derives from a deep commitment to ensuring the nation’s energy dominance and energy security.”

UL Lafayette’s Dr. Kumer Das, assistant vice president of Research and Innovation, Noah Bergeron, associate director for the Office of Innovation Management, and Dr. Barbara Marchetti, an instructor in the Department of Chemistry, are co-principal investigators for the grant.

The University currently has more than 55 faculty involved in energy-related research, development and outreach, and is working with more than 30 private companies. UL Lafayette is designated as the state’s Green Hydrogen Center of Excellence and helped the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources secure $500 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding for grid resilience, establishing the Hubs for Energy Resilience Operations across the state.

In addition, UL Lafayette helped attract First Solar – the largest solar energy manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere – to Iberia Parish.

The company will locate its fifth U.S. manufacturing facility in New Iberia and make a $1.1 billion investment in Acadiana. UL Lafayette will provide training for First Solar’s workforce.

“We are pleased to serve as a partner in this collaborative effort to improve Louisiana,” said Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president. “Working together, we have a generational opportunity to transform our natural and human resources into new markets and outcomes.”

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 higher education partners build a world-class team to convert research into practical and useful solutions.

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.

The NSF considered more than 700 concepts before allowing 188 teams to submit grant proposals last year.