SeaGas : Production of bio-methane from seaweed by Anaerobic Digestion (AD)

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences

Abstract

Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

Planned Impact

The rapid growth of AD at ~35% pa since 2012, from 78 to 145 plants in 2014, with 342 in development is due to: (i) Agriculture, food processing and waste management who face increasing costs for energy and waste disposal at £80/te to landfill as well as increasing landfill restrictions in food and biowaste disposal; (ii) Feed in Tariffs (FIT) and Renewable Heat Incentives (RHI) which apply to AD CHP plants of <5MWe. At 20%pa, by 2020 the UK could have >500 AD plants and by 2025 >1000 AD plants. AD currently uses land biomass such as cereals, grass silages or food crops to supplement varying levels of waste streams causing a negative impact on land for food vs fuel and concerns over GHG emissions. While AD has the potential to meet 10% of UK energy demand by 2020 (ADBA 2014), alternative sustainable feedstocks are essential. Seaweed does not compete with food for land or require fresh water. It is fast growing, captures CO2 more efficiently than land plants and is a bio-remediator. It has carbohydrate (CHO) /gross calorific value (GCV) 11-15MJ/kg comparable with cereals (13-19/MJ/kg). Seaweed can replace grass silage in AD combined with food waste to produce the same gas yield 10.4m3 CH4/t.

Utilising all waste streams, the UK AD industry could generate 40.4TWh of biogas, or >10% of demand and be worth £2-3Bn by 2020. AD process knowledge and economics will inform plant design to maximise returns from FIT and RHI. TCE and the steering panel will identify early adopters by M18, in East Anglia and Scotland to build pilot AD plants in the 20ml coastal strip, near waste streams, within 6M of project completion. This will minimise transport costs and GHG emissions and benefit from closed loop energy integration. AD plants can be funded by loans from eg Green Investment Bank, (~£3Bn), Enterprise Finance Scheme(~£2Bn). Small AD plants generating <500kWe, with seaweed at £300/t dwt can return £700k-£1Mpa with build costs of £2M-£3M and ROI <4 yrs, including £5/ttate as fertiliser but excluding savings in waste disposal. Larger AD plants generating 2MWe, with seaweed at £150/tdwt can return £2Mpa with build costs of £3M to provide ROI in < 2yrs. Operation of 50 such plants using 2.5Mt seaweed by 2025, with growth of 20% pa to 2030 is feasible. This will require a multi-harvest, high yield, (200t/ha) seaweed farming system (Benchmark Holdings). TCE manage min ~6.6Mha coastal seabed, equivalent to the UK area of arable land, and will licence this to generate Treasury revenue, promote economic growth, job creation and further exploitation of seaweed based on the supply chain economics and the storage system. 2% (132,000ha, 1,320km2) of the coastal seabed producing 200t/ha seaweed would supply up to 26Mt seaweed value ~£390M for AD. To generate the same energy in AD with maize, instead of seaweed (at 22m3 CH4/t), would use 12% UK arable land. TCE will support supply chain development by leasing land for storage, NSMC and Norfolk Council will promote seaweed for biofuel production, CEFAS will lead on marine management. Further exploitation of seaweed in fermentation and energy generation by gasification will be economically enabled and the partners will apply the expertise and knowledge in other IB processes.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Strangford lough is a good place for growing seaweed at a commercial scale. The environmental impacts of growing seaweed are negligible in our site. It might be difficult to generalize the findings to other sites different to Strangford Lough though. In the second year of the programme we were able to grow 20 tons of seaweed for energy production. The costs involved in seeding, farming, harvesting the seaweed and transporting the seaweed to a facility to generate renewable energy are substantial. It would be recommended to reduce transport costs by having a facility to generate energy from seaweed close to the seaweed farm. Society's preferences for seaweed farming are positive, as this could provide be a good opportunity to generate green electricity in the future. The costs of growing seaweed per unit of energy produced would decrease with larger farms.
Difficulties in growing seaweed relate to weather uncertainties, risks of pests affecting the growth of seaweed in hatcheries. Other important aspects to consider is how to inform other users of the lough about the presence of long lines where the seaweed is growing to reduce the risk of other users of the lough to damage the long lines, and their boats.
Exploitation Route Future research should consider the optimal size of a seaweed farm in order for the seaweed production to be economically viable. This has to be thoroughly considered in conjunctiun with the location of the seaweed, and the location of the anaerobic digestion plant to reduce transport costs
The seasonality of the work is an important factor to consider too, as highly skilled researchers / technicians are due to grow, deploy and harvest the seaweed.
Future research should explore the possibility to harvest the seaweed twice a year, to increase productivity, and to explore the difference in productivity not only between different strains of kelp, but also between harvesting all the seaweed and cutting them to leave some part in the water to facilitate the re-growth.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

URL http://seagas.co.uk/
 
Description The research has entered the third year of the project. In the first year we harvested about 10 tons of kelp in Strangford Lough. We then posted the kelp to CPI in England. We also started the environmental assessment of growing seaweed in Strangford Lough. The initial data we have collected so far show that the activity of growing seaweed does not causes significant environmental damage. The monitoring is continuing in this second year. We are also evaluating the economic and social impacts of the activity. this monitoring will continue during year 2 and 3 of the project. In the second year we have harvested 20 tons of seaweed, therefore stepping up considerably the amount of seaweed harvested. The second year harvest has been within the expectations of the project. The new harvest has allowed us to conduct more tests on the energy content of seaweed with the other partner organizations. During the third year we have focused on the analysis of the samples collected, and the analysis of the data. During the third year, no seaweed deployment has taken place, rather we focused on the writing up of the results. One paper is currently been drafted for submission to Ecological Economics on the socio-economic impacts of seaweed farming. We reviewed the legal context, including environmental and social aspects, for the setting up of a seaweed farm in the UK. The results of this work have been published in Marine Policy. A second paper was published in Biogeosciences using a 3-D numerical model of hydrodynamics and biogeochemistry to investigate potential production and environmental effects of macroalgae farming in UK and Dutch coastal waters.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Seaweed cultivation introduction for new developers
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Title Seaweed harvester 
Description A tripod stand was developed to improve harvesting methods for stripping seaweed from longlines with minimal manpower required. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Tripod harvester significantly improved the speed of harvesting, we are assessing whether it is suitable for patent at the moment. 
 
Description SeaGas project meetings 
Organisation Centre For Environment, Fisheries And Aquaculture Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The SeaGas Project was launched with a kick-off meeting at CPI, Wilton Centre, Wilton, Redcar. Regular meetings take place every three months with all the project partners
Collaborator Contribution The project was presented and each partner agreed the the next steps in the research and collaboration activities
Impact This is a multidisciplinary collaboration that brings together scientists, social scientists, policy makers, industry partners to study the opportunity of using kelp for anaerobic digestion and energy generation
Start Year 2015
 
Description SeaGas project meetings 
Organisation Centre for Process Innovation (CPI)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The SeaGas Project was launched with a kick-off meeting at CPI, Wilton Centre, Wilton, Redcar. Regular meetings take place every three months with all the project partners
Collaborator Contribution The project was presented and each partner agreed the the next steps in the research and collaboration activities
Impact This is a multidisciplinary collaboration that brings together scientists, social scientists, policy makers, industry partners to study the opportunity of using kelp for anaerobic digestion and energy generation
Start Year 2015
 
Description SeaGas project meetings 
Organisation Crown Estate
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The SeaGas Project was launched with a kick-off meeting at CPI, Wilton Centre, Wilton, Redcar. Regular meetings take place every three months with all the project partners
Collaborator Contribution The project was presented and each partner agreed the the next steps in the research and collaboration activities
Impact This is a multidisciplinary collaboration that brings together scientists, social scientists, policy makers, industry partners to study the opportunity of using kelp for anaerobic digestion and energy generation
Start Year 2015
 
Description SeaGas project meetings 
Organisation Newcastle University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The SeaGas Project was launched with a kick-off meeting at CPI, Wilton Centre, Wilton, Redcar. Regular meetings take place every three months with all the project partners
Collaborator Contribution The project was presented and each partner agreed the the next steps in the research and collaboration activities
Impact This is a multidisciplinary collaboration that brings together scientists, social scientists, policy makers, industry partners to study the opportunity of using kelp for anaerobic digestion and energy generation
Start Year 2015
 
Description SeaGas project meetings 
Organisation Scottish Association For Marine Science
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The SeaGas Project was launched with a kick-off meeting at CPI, Wilton Centre, Wilton, Redcar. Regular meetings take place every three months with all the project partners
Collaborator Contribution The project was presented and each partner agreed the the next steps in the research and collaboration activities
Impact This is a multidisciplinary collaboration that brings together scientists, social scientists, policy makers, industry partners to study the opportunity of using kelp for anaerobic digestion and energy generation
Start Year 2015
 
Description Valuing the ecosystem services of green infrastructures for making life better at Musgrave Park Hospital 
Organisation Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Intellectual input, questionnaire development, data analysis
Collaborator Contribution Access to data and facilities
Impact This collaboration will result in a report on the monetary value of green infrastructure improvements at Musgrave Park Hospital, Belfast
Start Year 2016
 
Description British Phycological Society talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Karen Mooney attended the BPS conference and presented on the SeaGas seaweed growth research at QUB. The talk was well received with further collaborations developing with other institutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Gibson Insitiute student visit 16 Nov 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A boat trip for 31 students from the Gibson Institute was organised to visit the SeaGas site in Strangfod Lough. The students also spent time learning how and why the SeaGas team cultivate seaweed in the lab, deploy and harvest the seaweed. They also got an introduction to the work the SeaGas project partners do in relation to anaerobic digestion, data collection and model building.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Information evening and networking event 20 April 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The aim of the session was to introduce the Seagas project with short talks from key project partners and establish a stakeholder network within Northern Ireland for those interested in kelp cultivation, Anaerobic Digestion or the seaweed energy marketplace.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Interview with Radio 4 Farming Today 12 Sep 16 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Emma Gorman interviewed on Radio 4 Farming today about seaweed farming broadcast 12 September 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07rkjfy
 
Description KM Green Impact talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Karen Mooney presented a 1 hour talk on SeaGas and kelp bioenergy as part of the QUB Green Impact Awareness week. Attendees were staff and students from QUB and the talk was well received with good feedback from audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Lab visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Hosted James Strong from Plymouth University and visitor from Maylasian seaweed farm to seaweed facility in QML. Tour of laboratory and hatchery, discussion on cultivation practices.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Meeting with DAERA 2 June16 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting with Michael Cubitt Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs NI 2nd June 2016. Michael and another member of the team at DAERA toured the SeaGas site and facility at QML to discuss the concerns raised by the Good Family and neighbours in relation to the SeaGas site. The representatives from DAERA went to the SeaGas site with members of the SeaGas team to see the long lines with well established kelp and also those that grew poorly due to delayed deployment as a consequence of bureaucracy and legitimate concerns of local land owners. Subsequently agreement was reached between DAERA and the Goods that it would be best if they could deal directly with the SeaGas team at QML to resolve any concerns.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Meeting with Eleni from PML 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Karen Mooney and Alberto Longo had a meeting with Eleni Papathanasopoulou from Plymouth Marine Laboratory on possible seaweed cultivation economics and monitoring collaborations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Meeting with Landowners 05 Sep 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact On 5th September 2016 two members of the Good family and two members of the Sandford family, two local landowners who objected to the SeaGas project for reasons of visual disturbance were welcomed to the Marine Station in Portaferrry after an initial meeting at the Goods home previously. This visit to the Marine Station allowed the SeaGas team an opportunity to introduce the families concerned to the work we do. The opportunity was taken to take the families through the entire process required to grow kelp at the lab until the point of deployment. By seeing the entire process and not just the buoys out at sea the families came to understand the amount of work involved and the pride that we take in what we do. Subsequently we have come to an arrangement on the buoys at sea, altered the colour, and now we have a good working relationship.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description NI Science Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Karen Mooney and Liz Ashton had a seaweed bioenergy stand at the Northern Ireland Science Festival Roadshow. Events were help in Dungannon, Coleraine, Enniskillen and Newry, with over 800 people attending. Audience was a mix of children and adults, and the stand had a range of seaweed species, seaweed products and demos on how to cultivate and use seaweed for bioenergy. Feedback was very positive and people are looking forward to seeing us again next year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Ocean Veg Ireland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Sarah Jane Barry technician from Ocean Veg Ireland based on Rathlin Island started contact with Seagas in March 2016 and ongoing. The SeaGas team has been able to give advice and transfer of practical knowledge in relation to hatchery experience and macro algal culture techniques. The SeaGas team is also culturing Saccharina and Laminaria gametophytes for Ocean Veg Islander Seafood. The Rathlin Island team have reported that the harvest from the line seeded with QML cultured Sacchrina is one of their best and allowed them to harvest throughout the Winter of 2016 which was a first for the team.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://www.islanderseafood.com
 
Description QML Seagas Funday 30th July 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Fun day attracted over 600 people to the Marine Station in Portaferry. SeaGas was presented to the local people and tourists. Many families from fishing backgrounds were in attendance as well as people from all walks of life and ages. The SeaGas exhibit took members of the public through the entire process of gathering seaweed, releasing spores, growing the young kelp and harvest. In the newspaper article by Ards Chronicle 4th August 2016 there are photos of the QML Funday and SeaGas technician Brendan McNamara is introducing a local woman Caroline McDowell to gametophyte cultures under the microscope.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description QUBio Blog post 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Blog post written about the SeaGas project aims, specifically with QUB focus. Shared on Facebook, Twitter, university email lists and QUBio blog page.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://blogs.qub.ac.uk/qubio/2015/12/11/what-the-kelp-is-it-all-about/
 
Description Roshni Paul, Birmingham 2015-2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Since October 2015 we have been sending samples of Saccharina and Alaria to Roshni Paul a PhD student of Dr Lynseys at the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment Millennium Point Curzon Street Birmingham. This was ongoing every month until December 2016. The project dealt with anaerobic digestion and co-digestion of algae with various co-substrates. We sent Saccharina latissima and Alaria esculenta samples fresh (harvested recently and de-watered) and dried samples for testing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description School Visit (St. Josephs) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact School talk as part of a STEM initiative. Talk was on my work in SeaGas on renewable energy and use of seaweed in sustainable marine biomass, development of marine careers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description School talk (Ballyholland Primary School) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact SeaGas staff were requested to attend Ballyholland PS to deliver talks to all year groups - P1 to P7. Talks were on the SeaGas project, using kelp as bioenergy source and importance in local ecosystems. Talks were very well received with requests for future talks from other schools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description School talk - Lismore Comprehensive 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact School talk as part of a STEM initiative. Talk was on my work in SeaGas on renewable energy and use of seaweed in sustainable marine biomass, development of marine careers. The talks are part of a wider scheme to improve awareness of the research and public acceptance of cultivation facilities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description School talk - St. Columba's, Portaferry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact School talk as part of a STEM initiative. Talk was on my work in SeaGas on renewable energy and use of seaweed in sustainable marine biomass, development of marine careers. Also as the school is situated in the cultivation area, the talks are part of a wider scheme to improve awareness of the research and public acceptance of cultivation facilities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description School talk Portaferry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Karen Mooney and Brendan McNamara did a school talk at Portaferry Integrated Primary School in July 2017. There were about 25 pupils present and the talk was very well received with several students very interested in seaweed. One pupil wrote to us afterwards saying that due to the talk she decided to change her birthday present from a Barbie Camper Van to a microscope!
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description School talks, Ballyholland Primary School, 28 January 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Presentation of the SeaGas project to schools in Ballyholland. About 150 pupils attended the event. During the event, the seaweed cultivation was presented. Pupils were introduced to the role of kelp farming for anaerobic digestion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://twitter.com/BallyhollandP/status/692450125029974017
 
Description School visit - St Pauls High School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact School talk as part of a STEM initiative. Talk was on my work in SeaGas on renewable energy and use of seaweed in sustainable marine biomass, development of marine careers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Seaweed and Algal Aquaculture: Opportunities and Challenges workshop, Norwich 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Karen Mooney presented a talk on SeaGas seaweed cultivation at the Seaweed and Algal Aquaculture: Opportunities and Challenges workshop in Norwich. Audience was a mix of academics, policymakers, students and industry partners, with some excellent discussion on overcoming challenges in cultivation of seaweed. Also excellent networking opportunity with some good connections made.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description St Oliver Plunketts Primary School 12 May 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact On the 12th of May 2016 SeaGas outreach visited St Oliver Plunketts PS in Belfast. On this occasion all of primary two about 125 children were divided into smaller classes and had 45minutes each of introduction to sea life including algae and the importance and purpose of the work being done by SeaGas in growing Algae. Once the kids had listened to the talk and asked questions they were invited to get hands on with the seaweed plunging their hands into aquaria with different seaweeds, stretching kelp across the hall and trying to release a stone from the clutches of a kelp holdfast. We have been invited back this year to do an outreach event on 18th May 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Student site visit, Portaferry, December 13th, 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Students from the Undergraduate course BSc Land Use and Environmental Management visited the facilities in Portaferry, by Strangford Lough, to appreciate the biology of growing kelp for anaerobic digestion. The students involved in the visit were 15. Some students expressed an interest in work placement opportunities within the SeaGas project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015