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.