EnAlgae research on algae’s sustainability

[EU] Two research papers recently published by EnAlgae scientists point to real potential advantages in using algae as a feed ingredient and as a wastewater treatment, but only with further improvements in algal technology.

The first paper is an environmental sustainability analysis of a protein-rich livestock feed ingredient in The Netherlands: Microalgae production versus soybean import, Sue Ellen Taelman, et al.

This paper concludes that currently, from a resource point of view, it is better to continue importing soybean meal from Brazil as an animal feed as the production of algal meal in The Netherlands is too energy intensive and has a higher life cycle resource footprint, despite the fact that cultivation is already based on certain waste streams such as hot flue gases.

However, the author of the paper points out that a comparison is being made between mature, large-scale soybean production, with young, small-scale algae cultivation.

“It is clear that further progress must be made to lower the resource footprint of the algae production, but because this technology is rather new, many improvements can be made,” concludes the report. “A sensitivity test revealed that it is possible to meet a resource footprint of the same order as the footprint of soy meal in the near future.”

Use of renewable electricity sources, more energy efficient machinery used in production and further integrating algal biomass production into the livestock industry by using manure as a nutrient to feed the algae would be steps forward.

A second paper investigates the environmental sustainability assessment of a microalgae raceway pond treating aquaculture wastewater in Belgium and focusses on up-scaling and system integration.

This study looked at treating pikeperch aquaculture wastewater at both pilot and industrial scale. It also looked at integrating the MaB-floc raceway pond in a broader aquaculture waste treatment system as well as comparing the valorisation of MaB-flocs as shrimp feed and as biogas.

The study showed a high potential of impact reduction with up-scaling.

“Up-scaling decreases land resources consumption by 57% and water resources, fossil fuels and nuclear energy by 68%,” say the authors in the report. “Similarly, the freshwater eutrophication and the carbon footprint of the plant both decrease by 67%. Up-scaling is especially beneficial for stirring and infrastructure from an environmental point of view. Due to the economy of scale, the impact of stirring decreases by 69% for all impact categories.”


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