NeCruPro - Microalgae - the fuel of the future
The fuel industry is seeking alternative fuels with a smaller CO2 footprint and positive life cycle assessment. Today’s biofuels, however, compete with food production. The NeCruPro project examines whether oil-rich microalgae can substitute crude oil in industrial scales.
With the aid of light, CO2 and nutrients, these organisms produce lipids that could serve as the basic raw material for biofuels. The issue of algae production was also addressed. This could be implemented at energy-intensive industrial locations such as power plants or cement works, whose flue gas, CO2, wastewater and waste heat sources could be utilized. The biomass could be pre-treated and the oil and/or waste biomass processed in a conventional refinery.
Bridging the gap to primary industry
Laboratory testing and calculations have revealed that there is an existing potential in Austria for mircoalgal bio-fuels. Above all, the use of existing infrastructure, waste heat utilisation and appropriate biomass separation techniques are crucial points for feasible industrial production. A combination of mechanical enrichment and drying with waste heat appears the most reasonable; the dry biomass would be easy to store and to ship. At the refinery, the material would have to be processed by means of extraction.
Another possibility would be hydrothermal liquefaction, which would render drying unnecessary. The options regarding the integration of renewable raw materials into primary industry are as yet limited. The project attempted to bridge the gap and investigated to what extent existing facilities, refineries and logistics systems could be utilized for the production and processing of algae biomass.
Although the prevailing opinion is that large-scale production of crude substitute made from microalgae will only become profitable in ten to twenty years at the earliest, implementation paths are already being examined. If research continues to be promoted, Austria will be able to expand its pioneering position in environmental protection and set an example to other countries by implementing renewable biomass production chains in primary industry.
Other Consortium Partners
- OMV Refining & Marketing GmbH
- ecoduna produktions-GmbH
- University of Life Sciences, Vienna – Institute of Environmental Biotechnology
- Energy Institute at the Johannes Kepler University Linz