Algae cultivation could be used in the production of methane. (Photo: BioMara)
EUR 6.1 mln project to farm algae for biofuels
Friday, September 10, 2010, 02:20 (GMT + 9)
Scientists are proposing the creation of methane gas from algae grown in great offshore farms to power adapted vehicles. A new GBP 5 million (EUR 6.1 million) UK and Irish joint project called BioMara disclosed the plan and seeks to show the feasibility of turning algae into the next generation of biofuels.
BioMara is a collaborative project between Scottish and Irish researchers directed by Dr Michele Stanley from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and funded by the European Union (EU) Interreg IVA programme, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Crown Estate. BioMara includes six scientific institutes and universities from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Researchers are drafting a pilot project to trial grow the algae in a 2.5 ac patch of sea off the Lewis coast. If successful, the trial would evolve into an enormous seaweed farm -- providing numerous jobs as well as a new supply of fuel.
|Algae farming ( Photo: BioMara)
"EU targets stipulate that 5.75 per cent of all transport fuel should come from biofuels by 2010 to reduce our carbon emissions,” Stanley explained. “But terrestrial biofuel crops compete for land and freshwater with food production, forestry and conservation. Algae are in theory an ideal alternative biofuel crop as they grow faster, require little maintenance and thrive in environments not used for agriculture or forestry."
Fast growing algae would be seeded onto miles of rope hanging from floating buoys, breeding hundreds of tonnes of clean marine plants for harvest months later, News STV reports.
The algae would then be transferred to a massive municipal anaerobic digester at Western Isles Council’s organic recycling facility at the Creed Enterprise Park to be turned into bio-gas, electricity and hydrogen. The algae would be combined with rotting food and organic waste from island households to produce the natural methane.
Ideally, researchers will learn how to farm seaweed commercially and for less than the current farmed biofuel plants.
“We think this is a good possible alternative fuel for island communities,” Stanley said. “We are looking at cultivating seaweed and growing it on longlines - something like currently used in mussel farming - because we don’t have enough natural stock to provide sufficient fuel for bio-fuel production.”
“The islands already have a history of working with seaweed and they are very open to the potential seaweed could have as a biofuel,” she elaborated. “There would be little visual impact “other than the odd marker buoy as we would grow the seaweed under the surface of the sea.”
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By Natalia Real