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Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory


The Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory is uniquely positioned for marine-based research that focuses on helping the nation achieve sustainable energy, a sustaining environment, and coastal security.

Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory (MCRL), which was previously known as the Marine Sciences Laboratory, is the U.S. Department of Energy’s only marine research facility. MCRL, located at PNNL-Sequim, is uniquely positioned for marine-based research that is focused on helping the nation achieve sustainable energy, a sustaining environment, and coastal security.

Sequim Bay links a small, but relatively undisturbed, watershed to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Puget Sound. This allows for:

  • direct studies of environmental impacts on marine species
  • a potential study area for energy deployment
  • use of seawater in adjacent lab facilities
  • testing of innovative marine sensors
  • rapid access to diverse marine environments.

Nearly 15,000 square feet of research laboratories are connected to the bay via a supply system that delivers 200 gallons of seawater per minute and returns it to the bay after treatment. MCRL's unique location is also within one of the cleanest airsheds in the world, providing an ultratrace background for work in measurement and signature sciences.

To defend coastal regions, MCRL researchers engineer new approaches to address the greatest challenges in detecting and responding to national and global threats. Programs focus on developing efficient and effective ways to translate data acquired from environmental media—air, water, sediment, and biota—into information that can be acted upon.

MCRL research is supported by more than 80 staff members with expertise in biotechnology, biogeochemistry, ecosystems science, toxicology, and Earth systems modeling. A dive team is also on staff to support in-water research and testing. Projects at MCRL span algal biofuels, biofouling and biocorrosion, climate change and ocean acidification, environmental monitoring, quantification of transport and effects of chemicals in marine environments, and coastal risk and hazard prediction and analysis.

Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory

Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory

Solving the puzzle of energy with biomass

In an energy-hungry world, getting to the future increasingly means getting back to nature. Over the next 25 years, the fastest-growing sources of U.S. power will be renewables like wind, water, solar, and bioenergy. All of these present production and delivery puzzles—questions that are being addressed by our researchers. Our focus is to recycle carbon that is otherwise a waste stream or a liability and produce fuels and products that are important to society. We build on unique capability in catalysis supported by PNNL’s Institute for Integrated Catalysis and fungal biotechnology supported by world-class equipment housed in the EMSL user facility.

Bioenergy, for one, has been a PNNL research interest since the oil crisis of the 1970s. The Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) is devoted to the science and engineering of deriving energy sources from agricultural residues (e.g., corn stover and wheat straw), forest residues, municipal and industrial waste streams, and other renewable resources. BSEL is on the nearby campus of Washington State University (WSU) Tri-Cities and houses both PNNL and WSU researchers, enabling collaborative research and developing a pipeline of talent to meet future workforce needs. This is further enforced by the WSU-PNNL Bioproducts Institute, which extends our WSU partnership to all WSU campuses.

At BSEL, scientists and engineers move science to industrial processes in a manner that improves energy security, reduces petroleum imports, and decreases the impact of fuels on the environment. To accomplish this, researchers at BSEL have access to:

  • a high bay that can be used to integrate and scale up processing steps for conversion of biomass to fuels and chemicals

  • high-pressure catalytic reactor laboratories for hydrogenation and other chemical conversion processes

  • bioprocessing laboratories for development of fungal fermentation processes

  • wet chemical laboratories for preparing catalysts and feedstocks

  • a combinatorial catalysis research laboratory

  • an analytical chemistry laboratory

  • R&D space for process engineering.

As part of its education role, BSEL has classrooms, teaching and research laboratories, and office space for PNNL researchers and WSU faculty and graduate students.