Developing an Integrated Supply and Processing Pipeline for the Sustained Production of Ensiled Macroalgae-derived Hydrocarbon Fuels. MacroBioCrude

Project: Externally funded research

Project Details


Research challenge: Identify and demonstrate a robust and economic route for sustainably manufacturing drop-in replacement transport fuels (to use as diesel and aviation kerosene). Using innovative sources of sustainable biomass ensures continuity of fuel supply past peak oil and meets increasing fuel demands. Current 1st-generation technologies have reached the limits of available biomass feedstocks without compromising food supply/security. Seaweed (macroalgae) is a viable alternative source, but its use requires investigation, development and commercialization to provide a non-seasonal supply chain, to tackle its high water content and provide chemical processes for converting to transport fuels. Timeliness/UK Importance: The EU and UK government have set strict targets on greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation requires incorporation of 10% renewables into the supply chain by 2020. Such targets, coupled with increasing demand for dwindling oil reserves, especially for aviation and goods vehicles, make it vital in the short-/medium-term to develop a sustainable supply of diverse renewable feedstocks (current UK transport fuels use=54000 M litres pa: aviation fuel=24%, diesel=39%; 2% growth pa). Establishing routes to produce environmentally and economically sustainable transport fuels will have a direct (chemicals, fuels sectors) and an indirect (transport, manufactured goods' distribution) impact on ensuring the future of UK manufacturing industries. Project aims: To develop and evaluate an integrated supply and processing strategy for sustained production of ensiled MA-derived fuel-spec. hydrocarbons. Innovative Solution: For the first time conventional grassland ensilage methods will be used to reliably preserve MA biomass for >12 months. This MA silage will then be used as an intermediate energy carrier for production of syngas/bio-crude oil. Both hypotheses are entirely new and work of this type has not been conducted anywhere outside of the studies made by Durham/CPI/Silage Solutions. Significantly, dewatering and demineralisation are inherent features of ensiling, two factors crucial in facilitating post-gasification catalytic upgrading. The work will result in a significant step-change in the production pipeline of natural stock/cultivated MA, enabling systems integration by providing a sustained source of MA biomass of consistent chemical composition as a commodity feedstock for fuel production. Ultimately, this project will assist take-off of a large bio-fuels industry that avoids food/fuel competition for land use, does not require fresh water and makes MA biomass an affordable, preferred addition to land-based energy crops.
Effective start/end date01 Feb 201330 Sept 2018


  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (Funder reference unknown): £162,543.44

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water


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