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AF&F and TNO building mobile algae bio-refinery
September 11, 2013
etherlands-based independent research organization TNO, and algae cultivator Algae Food & Fuel (AF&F), have announced that they will be building a mobile algae bio-refinery for use in a variety of European locations where algae can be cultivated.
The refining capabilities will allow AF&F’s algae to be processed into purified raw materials for use as food ingredients and chemicals. The start-up phase is expected to be completed after the first quarter of 2014, followed by installation at various locations for algae cultivation.
Currently Algae Food & Fuel, which designs, builds, sells and installs systems for the industrial and agricultural production of algae, operates a demonstration algae production plant in Hallum, Netherlands. Together with Kelstein, a dairy farm and biogas company, they grow algae on the waste streams of the anaerobic digestion unit and the Combined Heat Power units. The installation provides them with energy, excess heat, nutrients and CO2 from the flue gas for growing algae:
The system consists of four LED-supported photobioreactors – each with a volume of 20 m3 – and three high rate raceway ponds. They claim to currently have the biggest operational LED photobioreactor in Europe. Their patented harvesting system uses a low energy pre-concentration combined with a centrifuge.
This past spring AF&F began the construction of a second algae production plant at the site of ACRRES (Application Centre for Renewable RESources) at Lelystad, Netherlands. ACRRES is the national application center for sustainable energy and green raw materials. The goal is to grow algae on the waste streams of the anaerobic digestion unit and the Combined Heat Power units at the location.
The installation will provide AF&F with energy, excess heat, nutrients and CO2 from the flue gas. Four 200 m3 bioreactors will be built, together with two aerated raceway ponds. The principle is basically the same as in Hallum, only these basins will be ten times larger.
According to TNO, the main challenge during the bio-refining process is to retain the functionalities of the different algae ingredients. This requires a mild process technology that will be installed in the mobile refinery. Approaches that focus on opening the cell wall in such a way that the functionality of the ingredients remain intact and subsequently separate valuable fractions will safeguard the optimal valorization of algae biomass.
TNO has set up an industrial consortium, named GAIA, together with algae producers and end-users of algae ingredients to focus on those approaches and make the application of algae ingredients feasible. In a large program together with industrial partners, TNO has gained important know-how in opening algae and separation of ingredients like proteins, oil and carbohydrates effectively on a lab scale.
Apart from the technology that enables the algae to be opened, the mobile installation contains membrane modules, extraction equipment and a number of reactor vessels.
By purifying the algae on a relatively large scale (1 kg of dry matter per hour), significant quantities of algae ingredients become available. This is necessary if the industrial parties in the GAIA consortium are to have the opportunity to test the ingredients within their current production lines and thus replace non-sustainable ingredients.
Examples of the ingredients that will be produced are high-nutritional proteins, oil, omega-3 fatty acids, emulsifiers, pigments, antioxidants and fibers. Within the GAIA consortium there are still a few places available for parties who would like to switch to sustainable algae-based ingredients and products, the group says.