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Microalgal Mass Cultures for Co-production of Fine Chemicals and Biofuels & Water Purification

January 14th, 2007 | 1 Comment | Posted in Uncategorized

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Microalgal Mass Cultures for Co-production of Fine Chemicals and Biofuels & Water Purification

A research paper – J.H. Reith, E. van Zessen, A. van der Drift and H. den Uil, Energy research Centre of the
Netherlands ECN – Unit Biomass,P.O. Box 1, NL-1755 ZG Petten, The Netherlands; tel: + 31
224 564371;
e-mail: [reith]@[ecn].[nl] (remove the [] for the email address)

E. Snelder, J. Balke, H.C.P. Matthijs and L.R. Mur, Universiteit van Amsterdam, IBED – Aquatic Microbiology; K. van Kilsdonk, IVAM Research and Consultancy on Sustainability BV.


Mass cultures of microalgae are suitable for production of renewable chemicals and fuels and for CO2 fixation and water purification. The combination of production of renewable materials with environmental applications is one of the hallmarks of microalgal culture. It supports sustainability and process economy. At the same time the combination poses challenges to process development.

In the project, a novel type of cultivation system is being developed. It is composed of an array of ‘bubble column’ type photobioreactors for inoculum production of the targeted algal species, which is fed continuously into a cascade-type open cultivation system with a number of basins placed in series. In principle this system allows large-scale, selective cultivation of a broad range of algal species at moderate costs. Outdoor results for Monodus subterraneus and Chlorella fusca show that the bubble column provides a robust production system, allowing mono-algal cultivation for periods exceeding 9 months. Cultivation of two microalgal species (the green alga Chorella fusca and the cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp.) was tested in an experimental integrated system outdoors. Modifications were identified including improved CO2 supply and improvement of the hydraulic mixing regime in the open basins. Lab scale experiments have shown that algal cultivation with effluents for substrate is possible and suits well the target of removal of N and P compounds from the wastewater.

Harvesting is a crucial issue due to the relatively high investment costs of equipment and the need for effective algal biomass removal and concentration with limited energy use. A range of technologies was tested. Flotation followed by mechanical dewatering and final sand filtration or membrane filtration shows satisfactory performance with respect to costs and energy use. The harvested algal biomass is intended as a feedstock for extraction of high value fine chemicals (e.g. colorants, bioactive substances) with the residues used for production of biofuels. For energy conversion of the residual biomass both thermal conversion by combustion or gasification and anaerobic digestion to methane were evaluated. Highlights from the project and issues for further development will be discussed.

1) This project is supported with a grant of the Dutch Programme EET (Economy, Ecology, Technology) a joint initiative of the Ministries of Economic Affairs, Education, Culture and Sciences and of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment. The programme is run by the EET Programme Office, a partnership of Senter and Novem.

Read the full paper here (PDF format)

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About Oilgae – Oilgae – Oil & Biodiesel from Algae has a focus on biodiesel production from algae while also discussing alternative energy in general. Algae present an exciting possibility as a feedstock for biodiesel, and when you realise that oil was originally formed from algae – among other related plants – you think “Hey! Why not oil again from algae!”

To facilitate exploration of oil production from algae as well as exploration of other alternative energy avenues, Oilgae provides web links, directory, and related resources for algae-based biofuels / biodiesel along with inputs on new inventions, discoveries & breakthroughs in other alternative energy domains such as solar, wind, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, hydrogen & fuel cells, gravitational, geothemal, human-powered, ocean & wave / tidal energy. We hope Oilgae proves to be useful as a research information & inputs resources, and as a source of news & info for business & trade of algal oil, algal fuels & new alternative energy products – specially with regard to new feedstock / feedstocks, production processes and uses, and market info such as price / prices, data & statistics

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One Response to “Microalgal Mass Cultures for Co-production of Fine Chemicals and Biofuels & Water Purification”

  1. Stuart Says:

    Is anyone studying the minimum amount of light required to support green/blue green algae growth?

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