Microalgae project manager Gaston Cruz Alcedo. (Photo: UDEP/YouTube/FIS)
Pilot project to produce biofuel with microalgae
Friday, January 14, 2011, 23:30 (GMT + 9)
A group of scientists from the University of Piura (UDEP), along with two companies, will present the results of research aimed at developing a methodology of cultivation of microalgae for biodiesel oil extraction and other applications in March.
Gastón Cruz Alcedo, the project manager, explains that besides the production of biofuel, they "will explore other options in the cultivation of microalgae, for example, to produce protein concentrates or supplies related to food," all of which will be carried out on a pilot scale, reports El Comercio.
The study arose for two main reasons: first, because there is still unmet demand for the raw material (oil) to make biodiesel.
Secondly, because the north coast of Peru provides favorable conditions for the production of microalgae.
"We have a high temperature and solar radiation more or less uniform throughout the year, with availability of land by the sea where they could install microalgae culture plants," says Cruz Alcedo.
To start the project, the research team designed and built three types of photobioreactors (a seaweed farming system) installed in Piura, to accurately determine "how far it is possible to increase the oil content in microalgae for use in biofuel and other applications."
The project manager explained that this is a pilot project, and that they are "not looking to replace fossil fuels in the country."
The research aims to explore a range of factors of the crop and make the results available to the companies involved. As in all projects, "the scientific and technical studies then have to be evaluated economically," he says.
The initiative for this study came from Ecoenergías, a company from Piura that is dedicated to the production of biodiesel from seeds, who came to the UDEP in search of scientific support.
They were then joined by the Agromar del Pacífico initiative, which has a laboratory for the cultivation of larvae of bivalve mollusks, which involves the production of microalgae as food. They they also sought the support of the Science and Technology Programme (Fincyt).
The project director noted that his team has contacted numerous universities and institutes in other countries currently investigating the cultivation of microalgae for the purpose of obtaining oil and biofuels, among whom he mentioned Chile, Colombia, Germany, France and Australia.
As reported by the University of Piura, to date, "microalgae are grown for aquaculture, as food for shrimp farms or bivalve molluscs and Arequipa are some of the companies that produce protein concentrate microalgae 'Spirulina', but still there are no microalgae crops for industrial or bioenergy purposes."
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By Silvina Corniola