Microalgae as a production platform for biofuels

Project

FUEL4ME - Future European League for Microalgal Energy

The 4-year FUEL4ME project will establish a sustainable chain for continuous biofuel production using microalgae as a production platform, thereby making second generation biofuels competitive alternatives to fossil fuels.

Microalgae are very attractive for the purpose of producing energy-rich molecules as they are photosynthetic organisms that can live in various aqueous environments, such as saline or seawater. This gives them a low water footprint and moreover they do not have to compete with cultivated farmland.

Advantages of microalgae

Although they are not superior to higher plants concerning photosynthetic efficiency, microalgae do have high growth rates and they provide much higher oil yields than higher plants such as palm, soybean or rapeseed oil, and do not produce lignocelluloses. Microalgae do not only use sunlight as energy source, but they are also very efficient in using fertilizers and waste streams as nutrient source. They could be used to clean these streams by removal of nitrogen and phosphate and use flue gas as source for carbon dioxide.

Focus and aim

The potential of microalgae is clear but the technology for producing biofuels from microalgae is still immature, operational costs are too high and the energy balance is negative (fossil energy input is higher than energy output). The overall aim of FUEL4ME is to establish a sustainable chain for continuous biofuel production using microalgae as a production platform, thereby making 2nd generation biofuels competitive alternatives to fossil fuels.

This will be achieved by:

  • Transforming the current 2-step process for algal biomass production into a continuous 1-step process with high lipid content (production process);
  • Development of a continuous downstream process using all components of the algal biomass (conversion process);
  • Integration of production and conversion processes.

In order to make microalgae as a source for biofuels competitive with fossil fuels, it is important to reduce operational costs and to achieve a positive energy balance.

You can find more information on the Fuel4Me website: http://fuel4me.eu/

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