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Biomass Potential of Microalgae

3146 scientists around the world working on climate change problems in 2009 unanimously agreed that human activities have a significant impact on ongoing global warming. It is a challenge for both the energy and transport sectors searching for an alternative energy source, which will ensure sustainable development and transition to 100% renewable energy sources. Continuously new production technologies are actively developed, though the application of biomass from microalgae on purpose to reduce CO2 emissions and produce biofuels is still in an initial stage and poses many challenges. One of them – EU’s goal to become the first continent on climate neutrality by 2050. The global market for biofuel produced from microalgae (consisting of biodiesel, aviation fuel, crude diesel, etc.) accounted € 4.1 billion for the transport and aviation sectors in 2017 and is expected that by 2024 will grow by 8.6% annually to € 8.7 billion.

Decarbonization of the transport sector

Currently, Research and Development (R&D) of new types of biofuels concentrates on biotechnology engineering, transport and energy engineering, and comprehensively solves various future challenges in the transport and energy sectors, already exploring for answers in future challenges. One of the most relevant challenges for these industries worldwide today is the conversion of micro and macroalgal biomass into valuable products, including biofuels. Transport takes a very important role in the socio-economic development of more than 198 countries around the world. Based on the type of energy raw material, liquid biofuels used in the transport sector are divided into the first, second and third generations. Recently indicated biofuels (synthetic and produced from microalgae biomass) hold the top class in sustainable development: it is considered to be a promising raw material for clean energy production and currently has a great interest in the scientific community.

This is especially relevant in the areas where alternative solutions (e.g., operation of electric motors, hydrogen fuel cells) are not technologically advanced – aviation, shipping, road freight transport, etc. For the successful introduction of new types of biofuels on the market, not only detailed research of separate engine families (a manufacturer’s group of engine types with similar design emission characteristics and compliance with the applicable emission limit values) is necessary, but also the identification of technological and economic measures to produce biofuels from algal biomass in a specific country. Only by ensuring a complete package of measures, covering validation of cost-effectiveness of production and a detailed environmental impact of the newly developed product – microalgae biofuel, would be possible to speak argumentatively about the market emergence of these fuels.

Decarbonization of the energy sector

One of the scientific concerns of the consortium of experts is an application of microalgae biomass to produce third-generation biofuels, conversion and refining of biomass relocating near boiler stations, waste incineration plants or cogeneration plants, thus making a real opportunity to integrate part of the CO2 emitted along with the fume, which is a food and thermal energy source necessary for the growth of microalgae. To achieve a positive energy balance cultivating and refining microalgae industrially in wintry regions of Europe, such as Lithuania is a future challenge for the scientists, that match the direction of the Smart specialisation strategy – Energy and sustainable environment.

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