Pilot Algal Lipids Manufacturing in the UK (PALM-UK)

Lead Research Organisation: Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Department Name: Plymouth Marine Lab

Abstract

A biorefinery uses biomass rather than crude oil to produce energy or chemicals. The term 'biorefinery' is routinely articulated in IB circles, but the concept has, as yet, never been fully realised. The objective of this project is to generate robust process economics for a fully-fledged biorefinery that will not just break even but, moreover, prove highly profitable. If successful, the project will generate £24.5m investment from the Malaysian Govt. to realise the technology at scale. The project will involve functionalising microalgae to produce a range of products that can be separated using a low-cost, continuous flow, downstream processing system. It is innovative in that it will marry the best aspects of the conventional oil refinery (100% feedstock utilisation & high throughputs) with the best aspects of IB (functional complexity and environmentally benign processing).

Technical Summary

A biorefinery uses biomass rather than crude oil to produce energy or chemicals. The term 'biorefinery' is routinely articulated in IB circles, but the concept has, as yet, never been fully realised. The objective of this project is to generate robust process economics for a fully-fledged biorefinery that will not just break even but, moreover, prove highly profitable. If successful, the project will generate £24.5m investment from the Malaysian Govt. to realise the technology at scale. The project will involve functionalising microalgae to produce a range of products that can be separated using a low-cost, continuous flow, downstream processing system. It is innovative in that it will marry the best aspects of the conventional oil refinery (100% feedstock utilisation & high throughputs) with the best aspects of IB (functional complexity and environmentally benign processing).

Planned Impact

As described in proposal submitted to IUK

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Halloween Phaeodactylum 
Description This is a digitally enhanced image of Phaeodactylum created for Halloween to help dispel the myth that GMO microalgae are scary. "#GM #GMO #Microalgae are usually safe, except this blood thirsty #Halloween #Phaeodactylum #tricornutum a.k.a. #PhaeoDRACULUM #DieForSputum" 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact 1,181 impressions on Twitter. 
URL https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Phaeodactylum
 
Title Microalgae Calendar 
Description A series of 12 images of microalgae generated by SEM, in collaboration with PhotoQuest and part funded by BBSRC Phyconet. One of the images was the strain used in the PALM-UK project. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact We created around 200 copies of the calendar and gave them away to stakeholders in the algal biotechnology sector. This created lots of potential leads which we are currently progressing including with Sellafield. 
URL http://www.phyconet.org.uk/uncategorized/phyconet-calendar
 
Description We can separate microalgae from water effectively using a technique that uses electricity to flocculate and then separate the cells. We can also grow to large scales genetically modified microalgae that feature multi-functionalization and feature e.g. an optimal omega 3 profile, growth hormones, antibacterial compounds and enzymes to aid nutrient uptake.
Exploitation Route Anyone with an algal problem would have benefit from these results. We are already talking to groups in ODA compliant countries about using this technique to mitigate against harmful algal blooms, in addition we are in discussion with the nuclear industry (Sellafield Ltd) to utilise the technique in their magnox ponds. We have also engaged with the aquaculture industry to develop our GM strains as drop in feed substitutes.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description Cambridge Uni Legislation for import of non-native algae from outside the EU
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Phyconet_ViaBio
Amount £600 (GBP)
Funding ID Unknown 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Department Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy (NIBB)
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 02/2017
 
Description Bath University: Palm Oil 
Organisation University of Bath
Department Department of Chemical Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have recently signed an NDA with a group led by Dr Chris Chuck at Bath University to transfer knowledge regarding the vortex bioreactor function and operation. This is involved transferring a 10 L prototype to the Bath lab.
Collaborator Contribution Bath will be assigning a PDRA to work on the vortex bioreactor in the coming year as part of their Innovate-UK/EPSRC project.
Impact None as yet.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ViaBio 
Organisation PetroVietnam Technical Services Corporation (PTSC)
Country Viet Nam 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are currently developing the ViaBio concept to translate know how in algal processing into a HTL based pipeline for fuel and fertiliser production. This has involved writing a GCRF EPSRC proposal with the partners, attending a Workshop in Hanoi with partners and growing algae for preliminary assessment.
Collaborator Contribution Vietnamese partners at VAST have provided biomass, PVN have contributed analytical services, Bath have provided HTL analysis
Impact Currently a manuscript in preparation, a GCRF-EPSRC proposal under consideration, and a small grant to supplement the UK aquaculture Initiative ODA call in preparation. This is a multidisciplinary collaboration involving ecologists, biologists, chemical engineering, economicists and industry.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ViaBio 
Organisation University of Bath
Department Department of Mechanical Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are currently developing the ViaBio concept to translate know how in algal processing into a HTL based pipeline for fuel and fertiliser production. This has involved writing a GCRF EPSRC proposal with the partners, attending a Workshop in Hanoi with partners and growing algae for preliminary assessment.
Collaborator Contribution Vietnamese partners at VAST have provided biomass, PVN have contributed analytical services, Bath have provided HTL analysis
Impact Currently a manuscript in preparation, a GCRF-EPSRC proposal under consideration, and a small grant to supplement the UK aquaculture Initiative ODA call in preparation. This is a multidisciplinary collaboration involving ecologists, biologists, chemical engineering, economicists and industry.
Start Year 2016
 
Description ViaBio 
Organisation Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology
Department Institute of Biotechnology
Country Viet Nam 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are currently developing the ViaBio concept to translate know how in algal processing into a HTL based pipeline for fuel and fertiliser production. This has involved writing a GCRF EPSRC proposal with the partners, attending a Workshop in Hanoi with partners and growing algae for preliminary assessment.
Collaborator Contribution Vietnamese partners at VAST have provided biomass, PVN have contributed analytical services, Bath have provided HTL analysis
Impact Currently a manuscript in preparation, a GCRF-EPSRC proposal under consideration, and a small grant to supplement the UK aquaculture Initiative ODA call in preparation. This is a multidisciplinary collaboration involving ecologists, biologists, chemical engineering, economicists and industry.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Eden Project: Invisible Worlds. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Eden Project developed a permanent Invisible Worlds display to promote microbial life. We contributed the design of photobiorecators, microalgal strains and text describing our research team, the algae and the applications to which we put them. It is estimated that ~900,000 people will interact directly with this display over the course of its life. In addition, team members have given presentations at special events associated with the display.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
URL https://twitter.com/Mike_J_Allen/status/999687375621165056
 
Description Seminar_Bath 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Seminar on alternative approaches to chemical engineering
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Seminar_Plymouth 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Seminar given to at Plymouth University on innovation and research, which resulted in discussion and questions afterwards about career opportunities and development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Twitter 
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 Regular project updates on progress within the project. #Palmuk hashtag.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018
URL https://twitter.com/Mike_J_Allen