The Spanish Secretary of State for Research has signed an agreement with the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) for the management of the Project Microalgas for the «production and development of algae cultures for the capture of CO2 and the production of biofuels», in the frame of the Spanish Economy and Employment Stimulation Plan (Plan E).

The Project Microalgas will be funded with 12 millon euros and will be structured in 3 action axes contituted by the following sub-projects:

1. At least 4 sub-projects for the building of as many different semi-demostrative photobioreactors, to be developed by public-private consortia including power production and supplying companies and creating a web-like operation structure.

2. At least 4 sub-projects of scientific and technical research focused on the academic sector. The main objectives will be: microalgae diversity, biology and biotechnology of chlorophylic algae,  biology and biotechnology of cyanobacteria, design of photobioreactors, CO2 capture, and production of biofules.

3. One sub-project for the creation and consolidation of a National Microalgae Bank and their associated services, as a national service for the study, the bioprospection and the conservation of germoplasm and for the promotion of Bioindustries.

Without a doubt one of the most important applications of microalgae culture is the production of high enrgy value products such as hydrogen, hydrocarbons, carbohydrates and lipides, the former being the raw materias for the obtention of bioethanol and biodiesel respectively. Current prespectives about the evolution of fossil fuel costs, the need to substitute them by environmental friendly and sustainable resources, as well as the need to reduce CO2 emissions, have made that research on microalgae as renewable energy source, and as CO2 capturing system, had become a priority area arround the world, both for private enterprises and public research centers.

In Spain you can find at least 15 research groups, from differnt research centers and universities, that are currently carrying out R&D activities in this field, being the main research lines: management of large-scale outdoor microalgae cultures for the production of interesting compounds; biotechnology approaches for mid-term application; fundamentals on molecular genetics and genetic engineering approaches.

Likewise ther are 20 bussiness initiatives that, in much or less extent, have initiated projects on the culture and ude of microalgae as a source for biodiesel, in which are involved the main Spanish and international big companies of the Energy sector. Among such initiatives ther is one of the CENIT projects in which MATGAS is participating as a technical coordinator: SOST-CO2, New Industrial and Sustainable Uses of CO2

Unfortunately, the industrial massive application of such technologies is not foresaw to be developed in short-term. There are still a lot of factors to be studied and understood, both at fundamental level and at application level as well. All these projects should be focused to solve all these bottlenecks in order to impulse the research and development of new technologies in this field.


Source: (Spanish)