Using algae to clean up industry emissions

The Challenge

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and other waste gases contribute to local and global industrial Carbon Footprints, which has a direct impact on climate change and the evolving climate crisis.

The method

Dr Preedy is based at the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) and is part of the Reducing Carbon Emissions (RICE) project. Her research focuses on using waste carbon dioxide to help grow algae to clean up waste fumes from local industry.

To combat the emissions, Dr Preedy, along with her follow researchers at RICE, will design, build and employ an Integrated Bio-refinery.

The bio-refinery will use microalgae (grown and circulated through tall tubes held in frames) to consume nitrates, phosphates and CO2 found in industrial, domestic, and agricultural waste to produce useful high-value products.

As trees and plants can capture CO2 for photosynthesis, so can algae which has an ability to capture and re-use up to 1.8 kg of CO2 per kilogram of algal biomass.

The more algae that can be grown means the more CO2 that can be captured from the waste emissions and the more products that can be harvested and produced from the plant material.

Reduced Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) Operation has been part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

The impact

Greener processes and a reduced Carbon footprint

  • With the aim of zero carbon emissions by 2050, growing microalgae is a step in the right direction to reducing the emissions released into the atmosphere, i.e. 1.8kg of COper kilogram of algal biomass, and achieving a cleaner future.

High-value products

  • Pigments are present in microalgae, such as chlorophyll which is common to all plants, but certain species of algae contain pigments such as Phycocyanin which has a value of approximately £72000 per kilogram.
  • Harvested algae is also rich in nutrients such as Omega-3 which, once purified, can be used to produce a range of nutrients and supplements.
  • The production of such high-value products could therefore act as an incentive for industry, enabling them to recoup initial set up costs and profit from their production.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

UN Sustainable goal - climate action

Swansea University Research Themes

SU research theme - Sustainability and the Environment