Crucial role in bio-based sector and market perspectives

Biomass value chain is a complex structure, made of a wide range of steps which determine the economic and its environmental sustainability: plantation, harvest, transport, refining, processing. The environmental impact calculation passes through aspects like soil utilization, biomass cropping systems, energy and carbon balance and final process efficiency. Each of these aspects is affected by limited operating condition and resources. Here comes the crucial role of Micro and Macro-Algae.

Macro Algae are aquatic plants which don’t affect the land use and do not need specific and expensive cultivation practices other than for harvesting. Microalgae are cultivated in photo-bioreactors(PBR), as well as in open ponds. These unicellular organisms can be cultivated in desertic soils, without any relevant impact on ecosystem. Furthermore, their photosynthetic efficiency (6%) the highest among types of  biomass (max 3-4%) and the CO2 absorption reaches 1,7 t CO2 per t of microalgae produced. The potential bio-oil production ranges from 3,800 up till 50,000 l/ha/year in the best climate conditions. However, it is well known that the algae cost remains too high to be competitive with woody biomass or oil crops, this mainly due to the high costs caused by cultivation energy consumption. Therefore, the cultivation practices have been studied in the past years with the target of reducing energy consumption and operation costs. Research activities at national and European level developed new strategies and technologies which contributed to decreasing the market cost pushing algae sector towards an industrial development at global level. Low cost material for PBR pipeline, low energy consumption harvesting and water agitating systems – Integration of microalgae reactors in large scale biorefineries (es: wastewater industry, biogas & pyrolisis plants, etc..) – utilization of algae oil for diversified added value products (biofertilizers, biochemicals, additives, ..) – new advanced technologies for synthesis of gaseous and liquid transportation biofuels.

EUBIA is currently engaging with algae market opportunities and the benefits related to their integration in other biobased industry sector. EUBIA has been actively working in three projects co-financed by the European Commission:

SaltGae for the efficient treatment of saline wastewaters from food and beverage industry

EnAlgae for the development of sustainable technologies for algal biomass production

ALGADISK for novel algae-based solutions for CO2 capture and biomass production

Furthermore, the European Biomass Industry Association is investigating and working on new projects focused on microalgae cultivation and their application as high quality biomass for different market sectors:

      – Biomethane-Microalgae production integration with mixed residues in anaerobic digestion plants,

      – New technologies for biofuels(biodiesel and bioethanol) production from micro and macro algae,

      – Micro and macro algae application for high value bio-fertilizer production