As of October, 2016, TUI Benelux, Wageningen University and Research Center (WUR), Bonaire, the Dutch Ministry of economic affairs and OCTA (Overseas Countries & Territories) joined forces for AlgaePARC Bonaire, a project for the cultivation of microalgae.
This study, to use microalgae as a feedstock for renewable fuels, extends from Wageningen, in the Netherlands, to Bonaire. After initial contacts between WUR and the policymakers of Bonaire (OLB) were established, the island worked to be awarded the innovation project. Bonaire has now been given the opportunity, in cooperation with OCTA, to further WUR’s microalgae studies here on Bonaire.
Microalgae are an excellent and durable material for the production of biofuel. The Caribbean island of Bonaire is not just a great destination for vacationers. Due to its favorable climate, it is also an ideal place for the cultivation of microalgae.
The University and the research facility, AlgaePARC, in Wageningen have been working on research into biofuel. The production of a biofuel from algae using the natural resources on Bonaire is the next step in the research.
The facility will ensure the development and expansion of sustainable economic activities on the island which is now largely dependent on the revenues from tourism.
There is a great need within the aviation industry to develop an alternative to kerosene in order to make flying more sustainable. In October, 2016, an agreement was made by international aviation organizations to counteract the increasing greenhouse CO2 emissions.
This international development is in line with recent TUI activities concerning sustainable aviation development to make their aircraft more efficient and use cleaner fuels in order to reduce TUI Netherlands CO2 emissions.
When the bio kerosene from algae appears to be a suitable fuel alternative, the research station on Bonaire will be scaled up into a small test facility. Thereafter, production on a large scale for commercial applications may be possible.
Advantages of micro algae
The cultivation of microalgae offers significant advantages over other biomass currently being used for biofuel production. Depending on the species of algae and microalgae, the cultivation method provides a large amount of oil, carbohydrates and proteins. The algae cultivation uses waste streams such as CO2. In addition, algae are grown in seawater and in locations that are unsuitable for agriculture, so its production will not be at the expense of food production.
The new production and research facility will be a boost to the economy of Bonaire. New investors might be attracted to the development of this production technology. Local businesses will be involved in activities that are related to the production of microalgae and their applications.
In 2017, AlgaePARC Bonaire will be operational and create twenty research and development jobs. Their training courses are also designed for high school students and young talent and will contribute to their professional development.
Wageningen University & Research (WUR)
Wageningen University and Research is a public Dutch university in Wageningen, Netherlands. It consists of Wageningen University and the former agricultural research institutes, Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek (DLO), of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture. Wageningen UR trains specialists in life and social sciences and focuses its research on scientific, social and commercial problems in the field of life sciences and natural resources. In the life science fields of agricultural and environmental science, the university is considered world-class. According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, it is the best university in the Netherlands and No. 1 worldwide for agriculture and forestry in the 2016 QS World University Rankings charts. Besides being declared the “best University for full-time education in The Netherlands”, Wageningen University also saw all of its academic programs get good reviews.
Wageningen University & Research is the only university in the Netherlands that focuses specifically on the theme, “healthy food and living environment”. WUR does so by working closely together with governments and the business community.
Algae fuels research, production & challenges
biodiesel production from microalgae
development of sustainable and cost-effective production of biodiesel from microalgae
improvement and optimization of algae oil production methods by developing new culturing methods
adapting existing bio-refinery methods for extracting oils from microalgae
optimizing algae oil composition for biodiesel manufacturing
Cost-effective microalgae oil production
Microalgae are promising producers of raw materials for sustainable fuels. They have relatively high growth rates while producing oils that can be used for biodiesel. However, producing and harvesting oil from algae is still not cost effective and energetically uneconomical (WUR 2015).
Algae oil production involves two steps. First, algae biomass is produced under optimal growth conditions. Then algae are put on a nutrient-restricted diet resulting in increased oil production in the algae cell. Subsequently, the fat algae can be harvested. A disadvantage of this method is time loss during algae growth.
Improvement of continuous algae oil production systems
An alternative method is to harvest algae biomass from a growing algae culture on a slightly nutrient restricted diet. This system avoids time loss, but oil content is relatively low. Optimizing this system could be a big leap forward in more cost-effective oil production.
The goal is an optimal balance between algae growth and algae oil production.
Two microalgae species, Phaeodactylum and Nanochloropsis, are cultured. Important metabolism routes and the genes involved are studied in order to understand and control the process of algae oil production. The optimal balance between sufficient growth and sufficient oil production will be assessed.
Production of biodiesel from algae tri-glycerides
Oils are extracted using existing methods adapted specifically for algae. Different oils for different purposes (nutritional supplements, biodiesel) are separated, while oil composition will be optimized for the production of biodiesel.
Sustainable aviation fuels from algae
Airlines Arkefly, TUIfly and Wageningen collaborate on the development of sustainable aviation fuels from algae. Microalgae offer great potential for the production of sustainable biofuels such as bio-kerosene.
Sustainability in aviation
To make flying more sustainable, there is great need in the aviation industry to develop a carbon neutral, sustainable alternative to kerosene. Arke and TUI have therefore commissioned Wageningen UR to explore the potential of bio-kerosene production from microalgae. If the production of bio-kerosene from algae turns out to be economically and technologically feasible, Arke and TUI are willing to invest in large scale production of algae.
In 2011, Wageningen UR opened the research and pilot facility, AlgaePARC, where research is conducted into the production of chemicals and fuels from microalgae. Wageningen UR (department of BioProcess Engineering and Research Institute Food & Biobased Research) has established a leading position in algae research. The Centre for Biobased Economy (CBBE) is co-sponsor of this research.
Research on economic feasibility, sustainability and co-products
A major challenge for the cost-effective production of biofuels from algae is that the production costs need to be reduced by a factor of ten or more. This can be achieved in part via technological developments and the increase in algal production systems. Another useful approach is the recovery of valuable co-products (such as proteins) from the microalga biomass via development of bio -refinery technologies. Bio-refining is the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of bio-based products (food, feed, chemicals, and materials) and bioenergy (biofuels, power and/or heat). In this project, Wageningen UR also performs research on the economics of algae-based bio-kerosene through benchmarking with current aviation fuels, identification of partners for technology development and an analysis of sustainability, in particular CO2 savings. Based on the results of the study, a road map will set up including a program for research, development and demonstration of large-scale production of algae bio-kerosene with adequate specifications and at competitive costs.