CYCLALG algae research consortium targets biodiesel
July 22, 2016
consortium of six R&D centers in the Basque Autonomous Community, Navarre and France – NEIKER-Tecnalia, National Centre of Renewable Energies, Tecnalia Research & Innovation, Association of Industry of Navarre, Association for the Environment and Safety in Aquitaine, and the Centre for the Application and Transformation of Agro-resources – are participating in the European “CYCLALG” project. The consortium’s objective is to drive forward an algae-based biorefinery to develop and validate technological processes to obtain biodiesel through algae cultivation.
The project involves a circular economy in which the waste generated is used to provide nutritional components in the process to cultivate microalgae. CYCLALG is also based on a model of biorefinery that makes comprehensive use of microalgal biomass, extends the useful service life of the waste generated in the process and diversifies it into new products of interest in the chemical, energy and agricultural industries.
The CYCLALG initiative will run for three years with a budget of 1.4 million euros (~$2.0M US), of which 65% is being provided by ERDF funds.
Apart from coordinating the project, NEIKER will be responsible for establishing the optimum, cost-effective, sustainable conditions of the algal biomass, which will be grown heterotrophically.
The project is providing continuity for the results achieved in the ENERGREEN EFA217/11 project, in which most of the members of the current consortium participated. That project demonstrated the technical feasibility of obtaining diesel through microalgae cultivation, their environmental advantages and the potential of these crops to establish integral exploitation setups or biorefineries.
The CYCLALG project is introducing the heterotrophic cultivation of species of oleaginous microalgae as an alternative means for improving the productive efficiency of the process. In terms of productivity, the heterotrophic cultivation of microalgae as proposed in CYCLALG offers clear advantages over conventional phototrophic crops for obtaining biodiesel, even though they require organic sources of carbon and nitrogen that are much more expensive than traditional inorganic fertilizers.
CYCLALG is seeking to solve this economic limitation while improving efficiency in resource management by proposing the use of residual biomass coming from the extraction of oils (rich in sugars and proteins) in the preparation of nutritive mediums that will feed the crops again. Among the technological aims of the project, then, is the development and validation of technologies involving the hydrolysis, fractionation and solubilisation of waste into nutritional concentrates.
Alternatively, the CYCLALG project is considering the development of other technologies that allow the upgrading of waste and co-products, such as the synthesis of biopolymers and other biomolecules, the obtaining of bio-fertilizers, animal foods, and the production of biomethane.