Biofuel from seaweed

The Eastern Cape Province (Capital Port Elizabeth) was chosen as host site of a pilot project for producing biofuels from marine algae.

Last December, a partnership agreement was signed between the German Phytolutions owned by Jacobs University and various investors, and the Institute of Chemical Technology Innoventon the NMMU (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University). The agreement aims to adapt to South Africa techniques using microalgae photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into biomass.

Research by the Jacobs University in Germany have led the latter to be installed in August 2008 in two German power plants, photobioreactors of 800 m2 in microalgae. The project provides a first step in the installation, the NMMU a photobioreactor 200 m2 capable of producing 2 tons of biomass per year. The pilot phase will be followed by the establishment of two photobioreactors, 1000 m2 each, industrial sites adjacent to evaluate the technique in industrial conditions.

To keep production costs as low as possible photobioreactors will be built by local SMEs in the politics of the Black Economic Empowerment. The gas is blown into plastic bags containing algae and placed on metal frames. Phytolutions has developed software to monitor and control the installation.

Professor Ben Zeel of Innoventon indicates that industrial activity coupled with conditions of temperature and sunshine are ideal for the growth of microalgae and the presence of expertise within the NMMU led Innoventon to choose the Eastern Cape Province as a pilot site for the adaptation of the technique before dissemination to other sites.

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