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Sustainability assessment of integrated process

Work package 5 of FUEL4ME (Sustainability assessment of integrated processfocuses on the assessment of the sustainability including environmental, economic and social parameters of a continuous production and conversion process based on the work performed in WPs 1-4. The results will be used to guide the technical development and future implementation in the desired direction and to be able to determine economic feasibility and environmental sustainability.

Actually the development and description of the methodology for the sustainability assessment (economic, environmental and social assessment) is finished. The whole value chain of the FUEL4ME integrated process (see Figure 1), different algal concepts for the assessment (e.g. plant sizes, location, algae species), the reference system with conventional products, system boundaries and functional units have been defined. Within the sustainability assessment the whole value chain including cultivation of algal biomass, harvesting, transport to conversion centers, conversion to biofuels, disposal of wastes, transport to user, use in a final energy product of the FUEL4ME integrated process will be considered. 

 

Maria Hingsamer / Gerfried Jungmeier

 

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Translation to outdoors and production

The Work Package 2 (Translation to outdoors and productiondedicated the activity of the last months to the detailed engineering definition for the Pilot (10 m2) and Demo (250 m2) plants at BGU, F&M, WU and BIT. A common basic design (flat panel reactors) was chosen for all the locations, but detailed engineering, based on the specific knowledge of each group, will results in four different systems, three of them made by flexible plastic film and one by rigid glass sheets.  F&M will adopt the Green Wall Panel design based on its patent (WO2011/013104), BGU will adopt the disposable reactor based on its patent (WO 2005/006838), WU will use a rigid glass panel and BIT will use the ProviAPT system.

In some of the locations the reactors are already in place, in others they are in course of realization. All the Pilot plants are expected  to be in operation in April 2014 and the Demo plant is expected to be fully operative in May-June 2014. The Demo plant will include two series of photobioreactors, a larger system for the production of biomass for the downstream process and a smaller system to obtain growth data over a longer period. 

Thanks to the previous work carried out by WP2 (Translation to outdoors and production) partners, together with WP1, the strains of Phaeodactylum and Nannochloropsis to be used in the four plants were identified.

Together with WP5 partners the list of inputs and outputs to be measured during the outdoor experiments for LCA evaluation and the procedures to be used for the measurement of the different parameters were defined.

Liliana Rodolfi

 

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Fundamental research and enabling technologies


The effect of incident light intensity in two-stage batch cultures ofPhaeodactylum tricornutumwas evaluated. In the first stage,P. tricornutumgrew to a fixed biomass density in the presence of a nitrogen source. The second stage started when all nitrogen was consumed and the microalgae switched their metabolism towards accumulation of lipids. This work showed thatP. tricornutumis rather sensitive to a combination of nitrogen depletion and high light intensities, leading to rapid cell death at high incident light intensities. The highest lipid yield can be obtained at relatively low light intensity combined with nitrogen depletion.

Currently, experiments for continuous one-stage lipid production in nitrogen-limitedP. tricornutumcultures are ongoing. These experiments will be coupled to transcriptome, proteome and metabolome analyses, for which the basic analytical protocols have been set-up or are currently being finalized. The combination of these highly controlled photobioreactor experiments and the broad-scale ~ omics analyses will generate fundamental insight in the mechanisms underlying lipid accumulation inP. tricornutum, and will also give directions for the cultivation strategies that will be tested outdoors in Work Package 2 (Translation to outdoors and production).

Simultaneously, various two-stage and one-stage cultivation strategies are being evaluated forNannochloropsisin both indoor and outdoor experiments.

Packo Lamers

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WELCOME TO FUEL4ME!

In a bio-based economy, agricultural crops are not only used for production of food and feed but also for chemicals, materials and biofuels. Microalgae are the most promising feed stocks for a sustainable supply of commodities for both food and non-food products. To realize this promise, the scale of production needs to increase with a concomitant decrease in production costs. FUEL4ME aims to exploit one the unique strengths of algae: the ability to produce lipids using energy from photosynthesis. These lipids form excellent starting material for the production of bulk products. The overall goal of FUEL4ME is to establish a sustainable chain for continuous production of lipids using microalgae as a production platform. For this the largest fraction of the lipids will be used for the production of biofuel and a smaller fraction will be used for food and feed components (ω3 fatty acids).

The work in FUEL4ME will set the basis required to demonstration scale; from the growth of algae, through the harvesting and extraction of oil obtaining value and use of the remaining biomass, the conversion of the oil into biofuel and system integration with a view to improve cost-competitiveness of biofuels while minimizing the environmental impact of biofuel production. Results are expected to expand the biomass feedstock available for production of bulk products for food/feed and biofuel, assisting the take-off of a large biofuel industry while helping to avoid food/fuel competition for the land use.

To successfully meet this aim, the work has been split into a series of interrelated work packages that cover a four year program. WP 1 and 2 focus on the development of a continuous process in which the lipid productivity in microalgal cultures in maximized. WP 1 provides fundamental knowledge and enabling technology under controlled indoor conditions, whereas in WP 2 this knowledge is used and translated into outdoor production in three different locations, Italy, Israel and The Netherlands. WP 3 has as main objective the development of a continuous downstream process for the conversion of the microalgal lipids produced into biofuel. Demonstration of the production process from biomass to biofuel and co-products, will be performed in WP 4 to test and validate the process at industrial similar conditions (pilot scale). In WP 5 the whole process (both biomass production and conversion into biofuel) will be integrated and subjected to a sustainability assessment. Finally, WP 6 has as task to ensure dissemination and exploitation.

In this e-bulletin we would like to show the progress being made during the four year program of FUEL4ME. Each bulletin will cover the main aspects of the project and their influence on the whole process. The project started in the beginning of 2013 with the kick-off meeting in March 2013. This is our first e-bulletin. In the next years we hope to show you interesting results leading up to a sustainable process for continuous production of lipids from microalgae.

We believe microalgae will become an important sustainable feedstock for production of commodities by innovative research. Through collaboration between research institutes, universities and industrial partners these innovations can be realized in a biobased economy.