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ADVANCED TEXTILES FOR OPEN SEA BIOMASS CULTIVATION

Final Report Summary - AT~SEA (ADVANCED TEXTILES FOR OPEN SEA BIOMASS CULTIVATION)

Executive Summary:
Project context and main objectives
Today the total worldwide energy consumption is ca. 480 exajoules (EJ, 480 × 1018 J), with ca. 90% derived from the combustion of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, i.e. coal, oil and natural gas, are limited in supply and will one day be depleted. As a result the quest for renewable energies, being energies generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides, etc., and from industrial or urban waste and biomass, started decades ago. Biomass energy, being the oldest source of renewable energy, is generally acknowledged as one of the most promising. The technology is based on converting biomass material (plants and animal waste) into energy (i.e. heat, electricity and/or chemicals, like methane gas, butanol, etc.).
The choice for macroalgae based aquatic biomass cultivation in AT~SEA is based on the following reasoning: 1) 70% of the earth’s surface is ocean, thus there is a huge potential for biomass growth, 2) macroalgae grow much faster than conventional crops on land, 3) by producing the biomass at sea we avoid the discussions about land food crops being used as fuel/energy source. This is the so-called food-energy nexus.
AT~SEA is a 3-year European project within FP7 (NMP work programme). The project aims at the development of advanced technical textiles in order to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of open sea cultivation of macroalgae (seaweed). The project targets the development of novel textile materials for 3 different elements of the aquatic biomass cultivation farms:
1. Advanced 3D multilayer textile substrates for seaweed cultivation
The target is to identify 3D multilayer textile substrates incorporating woven, nonwoven and/or 3D fabrics based on advanced fibrous and fibre-composite materials. In order to facilitate (selective) growth on the textile surface, the different layer materials will be modified, e.g. by incorporating nutrients, fertilizers and/or other functional ingredients that are slowly released in time, by mechanical, physical and/or chemical modification of the fibre surfaces, etc.
2. Advanced textile based cables and connections for positioning and anchoring of the 3D multilayer textile substrate
This part foresees the development of advanced textile based materials for robust, durable and high tensile strength cables and connections to position the cultivation substrate at open sea. Engineering design will be tested and adjusted to North Sea offshore conditions.
3. Advanced coated textiles for flexible and light-weight floatation tubes, as well as for storage and transportation tanks
This part focuses on the development of advanced coated textiles for purposes like storage and transportation of the harvested biomass (flexitanks), for storage tanks such as offshore seaweed hatcheries, and for cleaning and regeneration tanks for the 3D multilayer textile substrate.

By reaching these goals, AT~SEA targets at the development of innovative offshore textile products. Further, it wants to stimulate bio-energy production from seaweed by enabling open sea large scale cultivation and harvesting.

Main results achieved
In July 2015 the AT~SEA project reached its end point. After a period of 40 month, including three full cultivation seasons, we have made up our final project overview. The original work plan has been executed according to plan and there have been hardly any deviations. From a technical point of view lots of knowledge was acquired based on numerous tests that were performed in the different work packages. The following summarises the main results as obtained during the second phase of the project, M19 – M40:

o In WP1 focus was on the value chain analysis for proposed solutions resulting in a full economic evaluation of seaweed cultivation in Europe. This work was the start of the development of an extensive business plan for the start-up company AT~SEA Technologies.

o Within WP2 novel textile structures were examined and evaluated for application as substrate materials for seaweed cultivation. The development was situated at three levels: materials, textile structures and textile finishing and coating. This WP was finished with the identification of 2 advanced textiles to be used as cultivation substrates during the DEMO phase.

o WP3 further optimized the seaweed/substrate interaction, seeding method, and cultivation design. This resulted in a dedicated seeding formulation and procedure for the DEMO phase.

o The work in WP4 was mostly performed in the first project period. In this reporting period focus was on mooring analyses, rope performance testing and splice design and integrity testing. This finally resulted in the identification of the appropriate mooring system for the DEMO phase.

o In WP5 the material of choice was identified for the development of seaweed storage bags and textile buoys. Detailed analysis of test results yielded one preferred coated textile material. This material was used to develop several prototypes of seaweed storage bags and textile buoys. WP5 ended with clear recommendations on the construction of these coated textile based devices.

o In WP6 main activities involved the identification of the final DEMO design. Furthermore studies were performed regarding the harvesting and processing of seaweeds by means of various chemical processes.

o Within WP7 the final demonstration of the identified solutions was performed. After the production of the different parts of the demonstration system, these systems were successfully deployed in IRE, SCO and NOR in October 2014. After detailed monitoring in winter 2014/2015 the team finally harvested the sheets in May 2015 and reported all results of the successful DEMO phase.

o Within WP8 focus was on dissemination and exploitation activities. The consortium extensively disseminated the project results to a broad range of stakeholders and finalized the project in May 20015 with the final AT~SEA event in Brussels. Other dissemination activities included the development of the project website, the making of the AT~SEA project movie and numerous presentations all over Europe. Concerning exploitation and IPR, the team developed a clear exploitation strategy that finally resulted in the founding of start-up company AT~SEA Technologies. Furthermore the advanced textiles as developed within the AT~SEA project were protected by patents.

o The work in WP9 Project management and coordination went according to plan. All deliverables and milestones were met and published in ECAS. From a financial point of view there were no problems. In the last phase of the project the financial status of the project was evaluated and the PSC agreed to transfer some budgets from one partner to another. On September 11, 2015 the AT~SEA project consortium had its final review meeting with the European Commission.

Project Context and Objectives:
Project context and main objectives
Today the total worldwide energy consumption is ca. 480 exajoules (EJ, 480 × 1018 J), with ca. 90% derived from the combustion of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, i.e. coal, oil and natural gas, are limited in supply and will one day be depleted. As a result the quest for renewable energies, being energies generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides, etc., and from industrial or urban waste and biomass, started decades ago.
Biomass energy, being the oldest source of renewable energy, is generally acknowledged as one of the most promising. The technology is based on converting biomass material (plants and animal waste) into energy (i.e. heat, electricity and/or chemicals, like methane gas, butanol, etc.).
The choice for macroalgae based aquatic biomass cultivation in AT~SEA is based on the following reasoning: 1) 70% of the earth’s surface is ocean, thus there is a huge potential for biomass growth, 2) macroalgae grow much faster than conventional crops on land, 3) by producing the biomass at sea we avoid the discussions about land food crops being used as fuel/energy source. This is the so-called food-energy nexus.
AT~SEA is a 3-year European project within FP7 (NMP work programme). The project aims at the development of advanced technical textiles in order to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of open sea cultivation of macroalgae (seaweed). The project targets the development of novel textile materials for 3 different elements of the aquatic biomass cultivation farms:
1. Advanced 3D multilayer textile substrates for seaweed cultivation
The target is to identify 3D multilayer textile substrates incorporating woven, nonwoven and/or 3D fabrics based on advanced fibrous and fibre-composite materials. In order to facilitate (selective) growth on the textile surface, the different layer materials will be modified, e.g. by incorporating nutrients, fertilizers and/or other functional ingredients that are slowly released in time, by mechanical, physical and/or chemical modification of the fibre surfaces, etc.
2. Advanced textile based cables and connections for positioning and anchoring of the 3D multilayer textile substrate
This part foresees the development of advanced textile based materials for robust, durable and high tensile strength cables and connections to position the cultivation substrate at open sea. Engineering design will be tested and adjusted to North Sea offshore conditions.
3. Advanced coated textiles for flexible and light-weight floatation tubes, as well as for storage and transportation tanks
This part focuses on the development of advanced coated textiles for purposes like storage and transportation of the harvested biomass (flexitanks), for storage tanks such as offshore seaweed hatcheries, and for cleaning and regeneration tanks for the 3D multilayer textile substrate.

By reaching these goals, AT~SEA targets at the development of innovative offshore textile products. Further, it wants to stimulate bio-energy production from seaweed by enabling open sea large scale cultivation and harvesting.

Project Results:
This part has been extensively described in the final progress report (confidential). Underneath the main results have been summarized.

In July 2015 the AT~SEA project reached its end point. After a period of 40 month, including three full cultivation seasons, we have made up our final project overview. The original work plan has been executed according to plan and there have been hardly any deviations. From a technical point of view lots of knowledge was acquired based on numerous tests that were performed in the different work packages. The following summarises the main results as obtained during the second phase of the project, M19 – M40:

o In WP1 focus was on the value chain analysis for proposed solutions resulting in a full economic evaluation of seaweed cultivation in Europe. This work was the start of the development of an extensive business plan for the start-up company AT~SEA Technologies.

o Within WP2 novel textile structures were examined and evaluated for application as substrate materials for seaweed cultivation. The development was situated at three levels: materials, textile structures and textile finishing and coating. This WP was finished with the identification of 2 advanced textiles to be used as cultivation substrates during the DEMO phase.

o WP3 further optimized the seaweed/substrate interaction, seeding method, and cultivation design. This resulted in a dedicated seeding formulation and procedure for the DEMO phase.

o The work in WP4 was mostly performed in the first project period. In this reporting period focus was on mooring analyses, rope performance testing and splice design and integrity testing. This finally resulted in the identification of the appropriate mooring system for the DEMO phase.

o In WP5 the material of choice was identified for the development of seaweed storage bags and textile buoys. Detailed analysis of test results yielded one preferred coated textile material. This material was used to develop several prototypes of seaweed storage bags and textile buoys. WP5 ended with clear recommendations on the construction of these coated textile based devices.

o In WP6 main activities involved the identification of the final DEMO design. Furthermore studies were performed regarding the harvesting and processing of seaweeds by means of various chemical processes.

o Within WP7 the final demonstration of the identified solutions was performed. After the production of the different parts of the demonstration system, these systems were successfully deployed in IRE, SCO and NOR in October 2014. After detailed monitoring in winter 2014/2015 the team finally harvested the sheets in May 2015 and reported all results of the successful DEMO phase.

o Within WP8 focus was on dissemination and exploitation activities. The consortium extensively disseminated the project results to a broad range of stakeholders and finalized the project in May 20015 with the final AT~SEA event in Brussels. Other dissemination activities included the development of the project website, the making of the AT~SEA project movie and numerous presentations all over Europe. Concerning exploitation and IPR, the team developed a clear exploitation strategy that finally resulted in the founding of start-up company AT~SEA Technologies. Furthermore the advanced textiles as developed within the AT~SEA project were protected by patents.

o The work in WP9 Project management and coordination went according to plan. All deliverables and milestones were met and published in ECAS. From a financial point of view there were no problems. In the last phase of the project the financial status of the project was evaluated and the PSC agreed to transfer some budgets from one partner to another. On September 11, 2015 the AT~SEA project consortium had its final review meeting with the European Commission.

Potential Impact:
These topics have been extensively described in the final status report that was published in September 2015. The text underneath summarizes this part.

Exploitation
Although being a research project that targeted the development of advanced textiles for open sea biomass cultivation, the AT~SEA project went much further than this. During the course of the project the consortium clearly saw the economic potential of seaweed cultivation in Europe and developed an Exploitation Team. This Exploitation Team developed a detailed business plan for the global exploitation of seaweed farms and presented this plan to the consortium. This finally resulted in the founding of the spin-off company AT~SEA Technologies (AST). AST will further optimize the foreground that was developed during the AT~SEA project. During the cultivation season 2015/2016 it will deploy a 1 ha seaweed farm in Norway. In the season 2016/2017 this field will be enlarged to 4 ha. By mid 2017 all engineering activities shall result in a first generation seaweed farm that will be available for customers. During the first year AST will be managed by former consortium members; in the second year AST will hire its first employees.
Other points worth mentioning here:
• A fruitful Exploitation Strategy Seminar was organized during the M24 General Assembly in Porto.
• SIOEN and CENTEXBEL submitted a Belgian patent application for the results obtained on the use of textile substrates (WP2 work); together with HORTI they also filed a PTO patent application in this area

Dissemination
The key activities concerning dissemination activities are:
• The AT~SEA web site was kept up to date by adding frequently news item, e.g. related to the progress of the seaweed growth at the partners.
• It was ensured that the AT~SEA project was presented at some key events, that covered a broad stakeholder audience (seaweed sector, aquaculture sector, energy sector, etc.).
• In September 2014 a workshop took place with NGO’s discussing the environmental impact of large scale seaweed cultivation in Europe.
• In June 2015 the final AT~SEA event took place showcasing all aspects of the AT~SEA project to a wide stakeholder audience.
• Partners SIOEN and CENTEXBEL received the TechTextil 2015 Innovation Award for their research towards seaweed cultivation substrates. Furthermore the AT~SEA project received several award nominations.

List of Websites:
Project website: www.atsea-project.eu

Contact details:
Bert Groenendaal - Coordinator of the AT~SEA project & Research director of AT~SEA Technologies
Email: bert.groenendaal@sioen.be
Mobile: +32 476 98 43 79