Bio-ME - Bio-Matières et Energies

Biodiesel production by microalgae – DIESALG

Biodiesel production by microalgae

A multidisciplinary research project for biofuel production from photosynthetic microorganisms

An integrated approach to achieve technological and biotechnological breakthroughs

Because of their high surface productivity, their ability to accumulate large amounts of lipids while absorbing CO2 by photosynthesis, microalgae are often seen as a promising bioresource plant for industrial and sustainable biodiesel production . However, many biological and technological breakthroughs remain to be developped before considering large-scale and economically viable production. <br />DIESALG takes place in this context, focusing on key issues of the problem as the optimization of production in photobioreactors, the recovery of lipids of interest, and the global industrial integration.

The project brings together a multidisciplinary consortium including academics from Life Sciences (LB3M, Cadarache CEA-CNRS) and Engineering Sciences (GEPEA University of Nantes-CNRS, LBT CEA Grenoble). These laboratories are associated with an industrial partner Alpha Biotech, which produces microalgae for many years, and which has already produced biodiesel from algae in the program ANR-SHAMASH, wherein LB3M and GEPEA were also partners.
DIESALG integrates also the results of many programs which partners participated (ANR-SHAMASH, ANR-BioSolis) or are still involved (ANR-ALGORAFFINERIE, ALGOMICS ANR-CNRS-LIPALG). One of the objectives is to implement and compare the relevant progress made in those programs in industrial operating conditions at the site of Alpha Biotech.

Main project outcomes DIESALG are:
1. Identification of strains with high potential for biodiesel production.
2. Implementation of protocols production in photobioreactors in order to optimize the quality and quantity of lipids produced to obtain a biofuel in line with the current specifications of biodiesel.
3. Development of innovative treatment of microalgal biomass for the recovery of intracellular lipids of interest and energy valorisation.
4. Definition of an integrated process satisfying the constraints and objectives of a sustainable industrial development (energy balance, general scheme of production, refining methods, production cost and operational resources, surface water, mineral nutrients, CO2, life cycle analysis, etc ...).

DIESALG aims to develop and validate major innovations for the production of biodiesel from microalgae. The advantage of these innovations will be demonstrated in industrial situation. This, coupled with an analysis of impacts, will provide essential information on the relevance of the sector for the production of algal biodiesel, answering key questions, such as gains obtained from selected strains and new processes developed within the program, or the robustness of production protocols in industrial situations.

Van Vooren G, Le Grand F, Legrand J, Cuiné S, Peltier G, Pruvost J., Investigation of fatty acids accumulation in Nannochloropsis oculata for biodiesel application, Bioresource Technology, 2012

The objective of DIESALG is to study the production of lipids by microalgae for utilisation as biodiesel. Microalgae are considered as promising candidates as a source for industrial production of biodiesel due to their high productivity and the capacity of certain species to accumulate large quantities of reserve lipids. However, numerous biological and technological bottlenecks remain and interdisciplinary research is required at several levels before envisaging economically viable large-scale production. This includes selection and optimisation of strains with a view to improving the productivity and quality of lipids, and optimisation in terms of cost and energetic / environmental budget of the processes of culture, harvesting, extraction and transformation of lipids into biofuel. The proposed project focuses on key aspects of this thematic area. A first objective will consist of searching for suitable microalgal strains via exploration of biodiversity and genetic improvement. A second aim will be to set up production protocols in photobioreactors with a view to determining how the choice of strain and culture conditions influence the quantity and quality of lipids produced and how this impacts on downstream refining-transformation processes for production of a biofuel meeting actual biodiesel specifications. The set-up of dedicated processes able to treat wet biomass will be the third aim of the project. This will concern cell destruction combined with adequate separation processes for intracellular TAG recovery, and the hydrothermal liquefaction of wet biomass.
All data will be integrated in a simulator in order to link operational choices (e.g. marine or freshwater strains, protocols and processes of production, process of transformation into biodiesel) to criteria for industrial exploitation (cost, general scheme of production-refinery, resources required, etc.). The overall approach (upstream research on key issues, integration and consequences for final installation) will serve as a solid base for definition of subsequent R&D steps which should ultimately lead to industrial exploitation: identification of dedicated strains and operational choices, identification of bottlenecks to scaling-up of production.
The project federates research teams in the Engineering (GEPEA Nantes-St Nazaire, LTB CEA Grenoble) and Life Sciences (CEA Cadarache). They will be associated with an industrial partner, Alpha Biotech, a microalgae producer. One of the main aim of the program will be to confront results to industrial conditions of Alpha Biotech. Because of its integrated approach, DIESALG project will capitalize on several results from previous research programs in which partners were involved (ANR-SHAMASH, ANR-BIOSOLIS, ANR-ALGORAFFINERIE, ANR-ALGOMICS, CNRS-LIPALG).

Project coordination

Jeremy PRUVOST (Laboratoire Génie des Procédés-Environnement-Agroalimentaire) –

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Alpha Biotech Alpha Biotech
GEPEA Laboratoire Génie des Procédés-Environnement-Agroalimentaire
LB3M/IBEB/CEA Laboratoire de Bioénergétique et Biotechnologie des Bactéries et Microalgues - CEA Cadarache
CEA/LITEN Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives

Help of the ANR 1,025,870 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: February 2012 - 36 Months

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