European partnership to unlock the potential of algal bioenergy

A major €14 million (approx £12.3 million) initiative is bringing experts from across North West Europe together to develop the potential of algae as a source of sustainable energy

The four-year transnational Energetic Algae – or EnAlgae – project, led by Swansea University, is a strategic initiative funded by the INTERREG IVB North West Europe Programme and backed with £629,000 from the Targeted Match Fund through the Welsh Government, together with a range of co-sponsors.

It involves 19 Partners and 13 Observers across eight EU member states; France, Belgium, UK, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, and aims to reduce CO2 emissions and dependency on unsustainable energy sources, through the accelerated development and deployment of algal-based biomass and bioenergy technologies.

In 2009, the EC Greenhouse Gas Inventory reported that North West Europe was responsible for more than 40 per cent of the EU’s total Greenhouse Gas emissions. This was due to the region’s high population density and its intensive level of industrial and rural development.

Given such considerable pressures on the environment and current energy sources, sustainable bioenergy innovations could help provide a solution to tackling CO2 emissions across the region, encouraging growth of a Low Carbon Economy.

Currently, algal bioenergy technologies are immature, but rapid advances are being made in the field.

The EnAlgae initiative will allow expert centres across North West Europe to form an integrated pilot network to support and accelerate the development of new algal-based technologies to the point of commercialisation.

The project is unique in developing best practices that will influence European policies on algal biomass production, bioenergy and bioremediation technologies, thereby de-risking and accelerating commercialisation of the sector.

Dr Robin Shields

The project’s manager Dr Robin Shields (pictured), Director of the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) at Swansea University’s College of Science, said: “Algal bioenergy has been identified as a strategic priority by the INTERREG IVB NWE Programme. The EnAlgae expert partnership has been formed to develop and implement technologies tailored to the unique socio-economic and environmental conditions of North West Europe.

"Thanks to close transnational cooperation, EnAlgae partners and stakeholders will gain access to those sustainable technologies most suited to their local operating conditions.

“As project lead partner, Swansea University is delighted to extend its industry-focused research on algal bioremediation and biorefinery technologies, in partnership with acknowledged experts from across North West Europe.”

Welsh Government Finance Minister, Jane Hutt AM, said: "Diversifying our bioenergy sector by developing sustainable biomass sources will not only help us meet our targets for reducing CO2 emissions, but also our reliance on fossil fuels in the challenge to tackle climate change. I am delighted that we have been able to provide support for this innovative project with resources from our Targeted Match Fund.”

Welsh Government Environment Minister, John Griffiths, said: "This is the exactly the sort of innovative approach to the generation of renewable energy that we are encouraging in Wales. It is vital that we support the development of a diverse energy mix so that we can secure our future energy needs, whilst reducing our carbon emissions."

For further information visit www.enalgae.eu, or contact Dr Robin Shields, Tel: 01792 602030, or email: r.j.shields@swansea.ac.uk.

Image caption: “EnAlgae project manager Dr Robin Shields, pictured at Swansea University’s Algal Biotechnology Knowledge Transfer Centre, with photo-bioreactors, which are used for producing microalgae under controlled conditions.”

This news item has been generated by Bethan Evans, Swansea University Public Relations Office, Tel:01792 295049 or email b.w.evans@swansea.ac.uk.