EnAlgae publishes “State of the Algae Industry” guides for NW Europe

[EU] EnAlgae, a research partnership drawing on expertise across seven EU Member States, has announced the publication of sixreports on their website looking at the state of the algae industry across countries in North West Europe.

Produced by FNR in Germany, the inventories provide a list of key stakeholders in the algae industry, including those with both commercial and scientific interests. They focus on Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. They can be found atenalgae.eu/public-deliverables.htm

“These inventories and assessments of activity across NW Europe have several functions,” said Dr. Shaun Richardson, project coordinator. “They will increase transparency among organizations involved in algae-related activities, improve the evaluation of the industry, and help coordinate research and lead to better networking and cooperation.

“At the moment we are collating such information into an interactive digital AlgaeMap. Our colleague Kristen Sternberg from FNR recently gave a talk on this map at the EU Biomass Conference and Exhibition held recently in Hamburg. In turn, this digital map will be part of our decision support tool aimed at focusing future actions in the algae sector across NW Europe.”

The EnAlgae Map has itemized 264 algae stakeholders across North West Europe, with “microalgae enjoying the more intense interest.”

Additionally, a paper recently published by scientists from the EnAlgae team suggests that a step change in algae cultivation is required if algal biofuels are to become a commercial reality.

Authors Phil Kenny and Kevin Flynn of Swansea University, UK, used a mathematical model of algal growth to explore geographical and seasonal variations in biomass production, investigating ways to produce energy-rich biomass suitable for biofuel production.

Published in the Journal of Applied Phycology, their paper provides a robust estimation of the upper potential for solar-powered microalgal biofuels production of the order of 4,000 litres of biofuels per hectare per year. While still outperforming many land-based oil crops such as soybean, rapeseed and sunflower, these results imply algae are currently no more productive than, for example, palm oil (for which yields of about 4,500 to 6,000 litres per hectare per year are reported).

The authors explain that while technologies may be improving, algae physiology remains the limiting factor to achieving higher productivity and that the only way to remedy this is through genetic modification.

They write: “…the physiological limits on cell growth constrain the potential for algae as a feedstock for biofuels. As a result, the potential for biofuels production from microalgae appears of questionable commercial viability, unless a step change can be attained in algal physiology through GM, with all of its attendant risks.”

However, despite the financial reality-check for large-scale biofuel production, the future remains bright for algal biotechnologies in general, says the report. Uses of algae remain broad reaching, from bulk production for foods, feeds and non-fuel bioenergy through to specialist cultivation for medical or cosmetic applications.
Algae Industry Magazine

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