Dr Robin Shields hopes the project helps to widen the sustainable biofuel market. (Photo: swan.ac.uk/bioalgaesorb/FIS)
EUR 14 mln-scheme seeks to bring algae-based biofuels to market
Friday, September 09, 2011, 02:20 (GMT + 9)
Swansea University is heading a EUR 14 million-scheme aiming to make sustainable biofuels a viable option in North West Europe. The Welsh government has given GBP 600,000 (EUR 682,009) in support of the venture.
The four-year Energetic Algae (EnAlgae) project intends to come up with best practice guidelines for how to generate biofuels from seaweed and phytoplankton in France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the UK.
Dr Robin Shields, director of the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research at Swansea University's College of Science, said the project is meant to facilitate policymakers and potential investors’ understanding of up-to-the-minute developments in algae biofuel technology.
Jane Hutt, Welsh finance minister, this week confirmed a grant worth GBP 629,000 (EUR 714,973) for EnAlgae. The sum is funded primarily by the INTERREG IVB North West Europe Programme, Business Green reports.
Facilities will be set up across North West Europe to help set up a database that offers best practice guidelines on the production of macro (seaweed) and microscopic (phytoplankton) algae.
"There's a big global drive for algal biofuels at the moment, but not much of it has been focused in northern European countries, where it's much more challenging to produce," Shields explained. "So we're seeking to put some solutions in place in North West Europe, including the UK."
EnAlgae entails 19 partners and 13 observers across eight European Union (EU) member states, including the European Industry Biomass Association, National Non-Food Crop Centre (NNFCC) and Laborelec Group GDF SUEZ.
As it stands, algal bioenergy technologies are far from mature.
Regardless, due to ongoing and swift new developments, the industry believes that algae could eventually be a more sustainable alternative to crop-based biofuels, as they do not need land to grow and thus do not compete with food production, they bring higher yields than many conventional biofuel feedstocks and even involve lower levels of fresh water for the production processes.
The UK’s National Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC) will also be investigating the environmental impacts of algae-based bioenergy to make sure that the budding algae industry is based on environmentally sound information, said Claire Smith, technology research officer for the NNFCC. The NNFCC was chosen for the endeavor by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council special algae body, the Algal Bioenergy Special Interest Group, Biodiesel Magazine reports.
According to Hutt, EnAlgae will help widen the EU's sustainable biofuel market.
"Diversifying our bioenergy sector by developing sustainable biomass sources will not only help us meet our targets for reducing CO2 emissions, but also our reliance on fossil fuels in the challenge to tackle climate change," she added.
- EUR 6.1 mln project to farm algae for biofuels
By Natalia Real