Johannes Skarka, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Algae have one of the highest potential for large scale production of biofuels and other bioproducts. Nevertheless, there are still limiting factors to just how much biomass can be produced. Johannes Skarka from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany has conducted some research on how land and CO2 availability will affect the algae industry in Europe.

Below is Skarka’s description of his work followed by a PDF file which contains a map with the cost of growing biomass at various sites in Europe.

“Microalgae are seen as a promising source for sustainable biofuels since they can be cultivated in photobioreactors on non-arable land and thus reduce the fuel vs. food dilemma. Furthermore they can use CO2 from industrial and power plants. However, in Europe most areas suitable for microalgae production are not located in the direct vicinity of these CO2 sources. Thus, the application of CO2 from fuel gas in algaefuel production requires a transmission infrastructure.

“Against this background a GIS-based model including pipeline transport of CO2 and land availability was developed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) to determine the microalgal biomass production potential at site-specific costs. The results show a total potential of 45 Mt in the EU-27 for sites with biomass costs less than 2,000 US$/t on a dry matter basis. Most of the potential can be found in the southern part of Europe, particularly on the Iberian Peninsula. Assuming an oil content of 50 % of the algal biomass and by considering a correction factor for the consequent lower biomass productivity, a considerable potential of 22 % of the EU-27’s jet fuel demand could be provided by microalgae derived biofuels.”

Johannes Skarka
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Check out his work here:

Microalgal biomass for biofuels in Europe

Source: http://algaenews.com/2011/09/production-potential-for-algae-biofuels-in-europe/

Most entrepreneurs think big. Andy Ayers thought small . . . microscopically small.

Ayers, a native Arizonan and a marine biologist by trade, was intrigued when he moved back to his home state in the late 1990s and heard about the vast underground sea known as the Coconino Aquifer, which yielded saline groundwater in the Painted Desert in northeastern Arizona.

“We analyzed a water sample, and it was remarkably pure. My first thought was, ‘Well, let’s grow shrimp,’ ” recalls Ayers. “But at that time, the Chinese and the Taiwanese were seriously getting into the shrimp industry, at such a low cost that it would have been impossible to compete.

“Our next thought was: ‘What about algae?’ At the time, everyone was really getting interested in omega-3 (fatty acids), and we knew the fish themselves get it, through the food chain, from algae to begin with. So we decided to extract it directly from the algae.”

Ayers would eventually secure a significant U.S. patent for the exclusive aquaculture use of the Coconino Aquifer’s uniquely pristine brine water. And nine years after he co-founded what would become Algae Biosciences Incorporated, ABI is ready to make a serious splash into the global microalgae industry.

Thanks to several key factors — including ABI’s unique ability to produce ultra-pure products, its targeted large scale of low-cost production, its intellectual property base, its global “sweet spot” of growing conditions in northeast Arizona, and a rapidly expanding world market — ABI is poised to make a bold move to challenge the global algae industry across a wide range of products.

“We’ve established command of perhaps the most ideal set of production conditions available anywhere in the world,” says ABI Chairman Robert J. Thompson.

ABI’s production facilities near Holbrook, Ariz., are currently undergoing a $5-million expansion, which is expected to allow the company to reach large-scale commercial production levels by year’s end.

And first on the agenda for ABI is the extraction of ultra-pure omega-3 fatty acid oils from microalgae for customers in the nutraceutical and food additive industries. “It’s a thrilling, exciting time,” says Ayers, now the Chief Executive Officer of ABI. “Things can’t happen fast enough.”

Market demand for omega-3 fatty acid oils currently far exceeds industry production capacity, and premium prices are paid for the purest algae-based ingredients in food and nutritional products. ABI produces pure omega-3 products that contain both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) — essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by the human body — while the vast majority of competing products offer only DHA, and many are purity challenged.

According to scientific studies, omega-3 fatty acids improve heart, joint, and brain health, may be linked to lower diabetes risk, and are beneficial to cognitive functioning and development, especially for infants and children. Preliminary studies also suggest that the essential unsaturated fatty acids may be beneficial in treating depression while reducing the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and strokes. Omega-3 is currently used in such food staples as bread, milk, yogurt, juice, breakfast cereal, spreadable oils, and infant formula.

A recent report by American market research publisher Packaged Facts predicts that U.S. retail sales of omega-3-enhanced food and beverage products, which rose 11 per cent in 2010 to nearly $4 billion US, will reach close to $7 billion by 2015. “Another boom phase for omega-3-enhanced products is on the horizon,” reads the June 2 report.

The Coconino Aquifer’s brine water, directly below ABI’s plant location, is protected from sources of pollution deep below the earth’s surface. Remarkably pure, it provides a competitively unmatched, ideal, and low-cost medium for growing a wide array of marine algae.

“Over the years, we’ve carried out a screening process with various species of algae, and found a half-dozen that grow well in our system. I’ve started a process, now, to basically push these algae to produce higher amounts of omega-3,” says Ayers. “And the high-protein powder that’s left over, after we extract the omega-3 oil, is one of the best protein sources in the world.

“It has higher amounts of five of the eight essential amino acids than any other terrestrial-based protein available today.”

Thanks to its enviable production capabilities, ABI’s downstream opportunities include: pharmaceuticals, such as designer proteins, vaccines, enzymes, antibodies, and research agents; sustainable biofuels; macroalgae for human food; scientific reagents that can replace synthetic dyes in food and cosmetics; organic pigments called carotenoids, which as potent antioxidants reduce cell damage and fight disease; and liquid feed for marine life.

Source: http://algaenews.com/2011/07/arizonas-own-abi-set-to-make-a-splash-in-global-microalgae-industry/

The world’s oceans teem with unicellular algae that carry out photosynthesis in the sunlight. It has been known for a while that the particularly abundant diatoms (unicellular algae with a silicate frustule) are also able to survive in the dark bottom of the ocean, where neither photosynthesis nor respiration with oxygen is possible. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology now disclose this artifice of the algae in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: In darkness, the diatoms breathe with nitrate in place of oxygen.
Microalgae often measure only a few hundredths of a millimeter, but due to their vast abundance in the world’s oceans they are responsible for about 40% of the marine primary production, i.e., the biomass production via carbon dioxide fixation in the sunlight. They often appear as massive blooms near the sea surface or as greenish-brownish meadows on the sea floor, if still reached by sunlight. However, diatoms (unicellular algae with a silicate frustule) are also able to survive in the absence of sunlight and oxygen, for instance, buried in the sea floor. Anja Kamp, Dirk de Beer, Jana L. Nitsch, Gaute Lavik, and Peter Stief, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen cultivated several diatom species in the laboratory to explore the metabolic process that allows the tiny algae to survive in darkness. A correlation was found between the nitrate that is stored by a diatom cell and its ability to survive in the absence of sunlight and oxygen. The more nitrate the cell contained, the longer it could survive in darkness where the cell does not have the possibility to produce oxygen via photosynthesis for its own respiration. In experiments with the coffee-bean-shaped diatom Amphora coffeaeformis, the scientists proved that diatoms use the nitrate stored in their cells for respiration in the absence of oxygen. Within just one day, most of the stored nitrate is used up, converted to ammonium, and excreted by the cell. A key finding of the Max-Planck scientists was that diatoms use nitrate just for respiration rather than for biomass production, as would be the case in sunlight. Anja Kamp says: “The rapid consumption of nitrate and the absence of biomass production tell us that nitrate respiration in diatoms is a metabolic process that only serves to prepare the cell for a resting stage and therefore nitrate respiration is not sustained for longer time periods.”
In bacteria, nitrate respiration in the absence of oxygen is nothing exceptional, as many of the bacteria studied at the Max-Planck-Institute are able to breathe with nitrate, sulfate, or even iron compounds. It is more spectacular to discover that algae, i.e., organisms with a cell nucleus, are able carry out both photosynthesis and nitrate respiration, each under different environmental conditions. These results have just been published in the renowned interdisciplinary journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Further inquiries to:
Dr. Anja Kamp; Phone: +49 421 2028 856; akamp@mpi-bremen.de

or to the press officer:
Dr. Manfred Schlösser; Phone: +49 421 2028 704; mschloes@mpi-bremen.de
Download: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/03/09/1015744108.full.pdf+html

Original article:

Diatoms respire nitrate to survive dark and anoxic conditions. Anja Kamp, Dirk de Beer, Jana L. Nitsch, Gaute Lavik, and Peter Stief. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. doi:10.1073/pnas.1015744108

The world population growth – World Statistics, and increasing average standard of living, implies an increasing demand on feeds – total world feed output is approximately 614 million tonnes – IFIF Statistics. Animal feed consumption already exceeds direct human food consumption by almost four, and this ratio can only rise as the demand more animal protein increases. The ability to produce increasing amounts of feeds is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind, perhaps even greater than the environmental, energy, global warming and resource crisis. An increase in world population plays an important role on increasing feed demand. For instance, there are currently 6.5 billion people in the world. It is estimated that by 2030 there will be 2 billion more mouths to feed. This world population growth is driving meat consumption, and more meat means more grain … feed demand and animal feed supplements are rising!

Microalgae can play an important role in the future. They are one of the potential sources of foods and feeds provided by Nature with the potential to feed an ever growing and affluent population. Microalgae are the photosynthetic organisms in the first levels of the aquatic food-chains, on which an ever growing part of our food will have to come from. Our challenge is to domesticate these plants, as we have done with higher plants, to allow us to manage their large scale production for a wide range of applications, including feeds.


This Brief aims to (1) bring together the most relevant information available on microalgae feed production – and (2) promote the knowledge management to help accelerate the development of algae feeds. We hope that is Brief will contribute for the emergence and expansion of projects and ventures in this sector.

Source: http://www.algae4feed.org/about.php