Innovative integrated microalgae cultivation to be demonstrated at one-hectare unit in southern Portugal

Published on
April 17, 2014

A consortium of biotechnology experts, including experts of Wageningen UR, has started to build a one-hectare pilot unit for the production of microalgae in Portugal. This unit will demonstrate an innovative integrated approach to produce microalgae biomass with biodiesel validation in a sustainable manner.

The demonstration pilot unit is one of the milestones expected from the Integrated Sustainable Algae (InteSusAl) project in which Wageningen UR is involved. The project aims at optimising the production of algae by both heterotrophic and phototrophic routes. Also, it will demonstrate integration of these production technologies to achieve the microalgae cultivation targets of 90-120 dry tonnes per hectare per year.

Secure energy supply

“InteSusAl’s demonstration unit comes in a time of extreme importance to ensure Europe’s energy supply security. We are glad that the European Commission is making it possible to demonstrate this new approach to produce microalgae biomass. We hope that our results will attract attention from investors interested in financing a 10-hectare site to produce microalgae in a sustainable manner on an industrial scale”, said Dr Neil Hindle, coordinator of the InteSusAl project.

Pilot site

The project integrates heterotrophic and phototrophic production technologies, using bio-diesel glycerol as carbon source to the heterotrophic unit and validating the biomass output for bio-diesel conversion. The demonstration unit will be located in the municipality of Olhão, in the Algarve region of Southern Portugal. The pilot site will be composed of a set of fermentation units, tubular photobioreactors and raceways.

The sustainability of this demonstration, in terms of both economic and environmental (closed carbon loop) implications will be considered across the whole process, assessed via a robust life cycle analysis.

InteSusAl Project

The InteSusAl Consortium is composed of 6 partners from 4 European countries. The demonstration trials are expected to begin in October 2014. InteSusAl has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstrations.