Welcome to the FUELGAE Project:Innovative sustainable on-site technologies for using microalgae to capture CO₂ and produce advanced biofuels

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The Challenge

Reducing CO₂ emissions from manufacturing & transport

The problem:Reducing CO₂ emissions from manufacturing & transport

Global CO₂ emissions were approximately 37.49 Gigatonnes in 2022, of which 2.73 Gt were produced by the EU-27. Whilst the EU has reduced its emissions, current projections indicate that this will be insufficient to reach the targets set by the European Green Deal (a 55% reduction of GHG emissions compared to 1990 by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050). In 2017, CO₂ emissions from transport (including international aviation, but excluding international maritime transport) were still 28% above 1990 levels. Transport accounts for almost 25% of the EU-27’s GHG emissions and is a significant contributor to air pollution in cities.

Using Microalgae to capture CO₂

The process:Using Microalgae to capture CO₂

Exactly like other plants, Microalgae naturally capture and convert CO₂ during the process of photosynthesis; but, they are able to do this significantly more efficiently: the EU has highlighted their potential in the production of the next generation of biofuels. However, to date, high production costs and a negative energy balance have prevented the process from becoming economically viable. After development at lab-scale, the FUELGAE project will validate the capture CO₂ at two case study sites in Europe (a biorefinery in Spain, and a steel mill in Romania) using a pilot photo-bioreactor on-site will be constructed and first tested in Greece. These different study sites will provide a range of gaseous feedstock for the microalgae, demonstrating the flexibility and robustness of the new technology.

Converting the Microalgae to Biofuel

The technology:Converting the Microalgae to Biofuel

The FUELGAE project aims to validate an innovative photo-bioreactor, employing specially selected and optimized strains of microalgae, as well as subsequent novel treatments of the resulting biomass to lower costs and increase efficiency, moving the process towards viability. In addition, well-designed and intensified catalytic technologies are used to deliver ready-to-use advanced biofuels. The entire value chain will be boosted by the employment of novel modeling tools, integrated in the form of a digital twin. Comprehensive LCA/LCC analysis will provide insights on the sustainability and potential environmental, economic, and social impact associated with the production of biofuels from microalgae in the FUELGAE project.

For cleaner, greener transportation

The impact:For cleaner, greener transportation

The FUELGAE project will contribute to the development of innovative and novel technologies for the production of renewable fuels, reducing CO₂ emissions and therefore reducing the GHG effect. The FUELGAE project aims to achieve Technology Readiness Level TRL 5 for the different technologies. Overall, the project will demonstrate the existence of opportunities to transition away from the use of conventional fossil fuels and ways to establish innovative methods of harnessing waste emissions from energy-intensive industrial sectors to create more circular energy pathways.

Project description

The FUELGAE project aims to develop a novel model of advanced liquid fuels (ALF) production from different CO₂ emissions streams of two industrial sectors (biorefinery and energy-intensive industries) through a microalgae pilot plant integrated into their infrastructure.

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The ALF production will be addressed by developing different technologies:

I) Microalgae will be adapted, analysed, and selected according to their ability to produce according to the needs of each industrial case study;
II) A pilot photobioreactor plant that can be integrated into the existing infrastructure of the 2G bioethanol plant /steel plant will be constructed and tested in Greece before being validated at two field sites in Romania and Spain;
III) Alternative novel treatments for the resulting microalgal biomass will be development;
IV) An innovative multifunctional catalytic upgrading system for the production of advanced liquid biofuels will be tested;
V) Biochar, which will be produced as a side-product, will be tested for use in agriculture as a soil enhancer;
VI) Additionally, a modelling technique will be integrated into Process Analytical Techniques to develop a global Digital Twin (DT).
VII) Finally, a thorough life cycle analysis will be conducted to ensure that the final product will achieve net reductions in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and be economically viable.

FUELGAE will contribute to advancing the European scientific basis and global technological leadership in the area of renewable fuels, increasing European technological competitiveness, and boosting the EU’s role in transforming the energy system to achieve fossil-free status by 2050, in particular in the transport sectors such as aviation and shipping, while supporting the EU goals for energy independence.

March
2024

Definition of KPIs, end-user requirements and preliminary model of the FuelGae biorefinery

March
2025

Selection of 2 microalgal species for case studies

October
2025

Optimisation of lab-scale production of biogas and bioethanol

June
2026

Optimization of catalytic conversion to produce advanced liquid biofuels

March
2027

Optimisation of bioethanol and biogas production
October 2023: Project starts
September 2027: Final results

November
2024

First batches of microalgal polysaccharides- and lipids-rich biomass produced

April
2025

Sensor functionality testing in lab environment and connection with Digital Twin models

March
2026

Design and testing of HTL and hydrotreatment scale-up in Greece

September
2026

Microalgal pilot validation in Spain

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Statement from the Project Coordinator

The FUELGAE project represents a new approach to eliminating CO₂ emissions and transforming them into advanced liquid fuels, thus converting one of the pollutants most responsible for global warming into a sustainable product and providing a more environmentally sustainable solution for air and sea transport and heavy vehicles that are so difficult to electrify. In the FUELGAE project, novel multidisciplinary technologies will be developed based on the capture of CO₂ from microalgae, studies of evolutionary adaptation of microalgae, novel biomass treatments to obtain lipids and sugars, and the development of high-efficiency multifunctional catalysts to obtain biofuels. These technologies will evolve to a subsequent scaling for their future commercialization at the end of the project.
Silvia Morales de la Rosa
PROJECT LEADER