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Open Access Review

Biogas from Macroalgae: is it time to revisit the idea?

Adam D Hughes1*, Maeve S Kelly1, Kenneth D Black12 and Michele S Stanley12

Author Affiliations

1 Scottish Association for Marine Science, Scottish Marine Institute, Department of Ecology, Oban, Argyll, PA37 1QA, Scotland

2 Scottish Association for Marine Science, Scottish Marine Institute, Marine BioEnergy Scotland, Oban, Argyll, PA37 1QA, Scotland

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Biotechnology for Biofuels 2012, 5:86  doi:10.1186/1754-6834-5-86

Published: 27 November 2012

Abstract

The economic and environmental viability of dedicated terrestrial energy crops is in doubt. The production of large scale biomass (macroalgae) for biofuels in the marine environment was first tested in the late 1960’s. The culture attempts failed due to the engineering challenges of farming offshore. However the energy conversion via anaerobic digestion was successful as the biochemical composition of macroalgae makes it an ideal feedstock. The technology for the mass production of macroalgae has developed principally in China and Asia over the last 50 years to such a degree that it is now the single largest product of aquaculture. There has also been significant technology transfer and macroalgal cultivation is now well tried and tested in Europe and America. The inherent advantage of production of biofuel feedstock in the marine environment is that it does not compete with food production for land or fresh water. Here we revisit the idea of the large scale cultivation of macroalgae at sea for subsequent anaerobic digestion to produce biogas as a source of renewable energy, using a European case study as an example.

Keywords:
Biogas; Methane; Anaerobic digestion; Seaweed; Macroalgae; Aquaculture