The EU-backed All-gas project, the world’s largest project to convert algae into clean energy using wastewater, reports that it has successfully grown its first crop of algae biomass at its site in Chiclana, southern Spain. This is a major breakthrough for the pioneering investigation which aims to obtain low-cost biofuel, initially at least for vehicles, from algae grown in wastewater.
The algae crop, says All-gas, has produced outstanding results – the biomass obtained shows a particularly high energy potential relative to its digestibility level, with a methane production capacity of around 200-300 litres of gas per kg of biomass processed by anaerobic digestion. The microalgae also allow the purification of wastewater to a high standard.
Launched in May 2011, the five-year project has already completed its pilot phase (the first two years) in a 200 square meter facility. The plans for the construction of the biomass plant are on schedule, and a one-hectare prototype is under construction. The project’s final phase will span 10 ha.
In terms of surface area, this will be the first time a project of this scale will be implemented in the world for the cultivation of algae into bioenergy using wastewater treatment. In New Mexico, there is a 6-hectare biofuel production site – but this uses artificial fertilizer, not waste nutrients. Various other installations around 10 hectares do exist but they use food-based crops.
It is expected that by 2016, the biofuel produced by the All-gas project will be enough to power 200 vehicles. When the project reaches its demonstration phase, the biogas produced will be used to power public buses and garbage trucks in the region of Cadiz.
In recent years, the European Union has made a decisive commitment to the pursuit of new sources of clean energy. The current aim is that 20% of the energy produced in Europe will come from renewable sources by 2020. In this context, the €12 million All-gas project, with EU funding of €7.1 million, can be considered a global benchmark.
The raw material used to obtain the biofuel – wastewater – is a waste product, whose treatment actively consumes energy and resources. The All-gas project proposes using this wastewater, as well as CO2, generated in biomass boilers from residuals such as garden waste or olive pits to feed the algae, which in turn are converted into biogas. A part of the biogas is CO2, which is separated from the biomethane and recycled.
The All-Gas consortium is led by FCC Aqualia, and includes five other organisations, from Germany (Fraunhofer – Gesellschaft), Austria (BDI), the Netherlands (Feyecon y Hygear) and the UK (University of Southampton).