BioDiesel Production From Algae - Obstacles and Challenges

Monday, November 8, 2010: 3:15 PM
251 A Room (Salt Palace Convention Center)
Heike Fruhwirth1, Clemens Borkenstein1, Josef Knoblechner1, Robert Raudner1, Edgar Ahn1 and Matthäus Siebenhofer2, (1)R&D, BDI - BioDiesel International AG, Grambach/Graz, Austria, (2)Department of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology, Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria

The transport sector accounts for more than 30% of the total energy consumption in the European Community (EU). It is 98% dependent on fossil fuels with the crude oil feedstock being largely imported. The transport sector is considered to be the main reason for the EU failing to meet the Kyoto targets [1]. Bio fuels provide the best option to replace a significant share of fossil fuel, Europe has defined ambitious targets for the development of bio fuels. The aim is to improve European domestic energy security, ameliorate the overall CO2 balance and sustain European competitiveness. Traditionally, vegetable oils – especially rapeseed oil – were used as feedstock material for the European biodiesel production. These feedstocks are limited in quantity and their use for biofuel production has been heavily debated recently (”food vs. fuel”). Alternative types of feedstock – like used cooking oil (UCO), animal fat or non-food vegetable oils increasingly gain share in the raw material spectrum. Innovative technologies are needed to produce high-quality biodiesel in an energy efficient way, from a wider range of feedstock resources. One prospective feedstock for BioDiesel production is photosynthetic microalgae. These organisms use sunlight as energy source to fix CO2 and form oxygen and valuable biomass. The potential of algal biomass is being increasingly discussed as a promising source of biofuels which does not compete with food crops. Algae have been grown successfully on a small scale for years in the pharmaceutical industry, for health care products and more recently also for specialized aquaculture, a lot of effort is done to achieve a cost-effective cultivation on large scale for biofuel purposes. Following an extensive “waste to fuel” philosophy great efforts are taken to extend this approach into algae technology. In the present algae R&D project a new comprehensive process to use microalgae as a new source of raw materials for BioDiesel production is being developed. Microalgae are cultivated on a laboratory scale as well as a pilot plant scalewith a focus on the design of photo-bioreactors and algae harvesting facilities as well as process modeling for scale up purposes. Although proven technologies exist for esterification of difficult raw materials, the conversion of algae oil is a challenging procedure. Technologies as well as analytical standards therefore had to be modified to meet the special requirements of algal oil. The goals in the development of an algae conversion technology of ‘BioDiesel from Algae' project are: • Development of analytical methods with respect to information on compatibility with engines for different biodiesel products/qualities • Improvement of algae oil pre-processing techniques • Improvement of phase separation technology • Integration of the up- and down-stream processing steps • Improvement of the economic balance per unit biomass • Compliance with the European BioDiesel Standard EN14214 Results of the present project status will be presented and compared with state of the art BioDiesel production.

[1] DG Research, EUR 22066, “Biofuels in the EU, a vision for 2030 and beyond“, Final report of the Biofuels Research Advisory Council, 2006.

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See more of this Session: Developments in Biobased Alternative Fuels II
See more of this Group/Topical: Sustainable Engineering Forum