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A Review of the Potential of Marine Algae as a Source of Biofuel in Ireland

This report has been commissioned by Sustainable Energy Ireland in order to provide an overview of algae as an energy resource, from either marine macroalgae or microalgae. It is also required to assess the potential resource in Ireland, determine the level of activity and recommend research and development priorities.

Algae essentially harness energy via photosynthesis. They capture CO2 and transform it into organic biomass which can be converted to energy. Like other biomass resources it is theoretically a carbon neutral source of energy. Microalgae are being widely researched as a fuel due to their high photosynthetic efficiency and their ability to produce lipids, a biodiesel feedstock. Macroalgae do not generally contain lipids and are being considered for the natural sugars and other carbohydrates they contain, which can be fermented to produce either biogas or alcohol-based fuels.

The scope of the study adheres generally to the original tender request, which includes the following key items which are addressed within the report:

• Review international developments in marine algae as a source of biofuels
• Identify technologies to grow, harvest and convert marine algae to biofuel
• Present illustrative examples
• Highlight barriers to commercialisation which need to be addressed
• Identify co-product/residue issues
• Provide outline cost estimates for commercial projects
• Identify potential applications in the Irish context
• Highlight factors that favour a site for algae production and the types of algae that might be suitable
• Estimate the potential for development to 2020
• Identify important research topics in order to realise potential for biofuel from marine algae in Ireland