Microalgae has been researched and cultivated commercially for human and animal nutrition, for cosmetics and pharmaceutical applications, for biofuels and biomass production, for wastewater treatment and to some extent for greenhouse gas abatement. The production for the microalgal biomass market today alone generates a turnover of 1.25 billion US$ per year (0.94 billion €/yr) while the total algal world market is about 7-7.5 billion US$ per year (5.2-5.7 billion €/yr) and is growing, with European Union being home to 30% of this world’s algae market activity.
The most critical challenge faced by all algae growers is harvesting. Harvesting is expensive and energy intensive. A group of European SMEs (Salsnes, Asio and Inwatec) has decided to work together to capture a part of the global algae harvesting equipment market. The objective is to develop a universal algae harvesting technology by building on their experiences gained from removing particles from wastewater and by modifying wastewater treatment technologies to harvest algae. Salsnes Water to Algae Treatment (SWAT) technology will use a flocculator followed by a Salsnes Filter to harvest algae. Two RTDs (Aquateam and HERI) will carry out research and development to achieve the objective. Two test sites have been chosen (IGV in Germany and Aqualia in Spain) to test the SWAT technology.
The SWAT technology will result in 95% algae recovery, 40% lower costs than the best state of the art technologies (Centrifuge and Dissolved Air Flotation) and energy consumption < 0.08 kWh/m3 of algae. The consortium will explore the SWAT technology in the growing biofuel market (which has a projection of 1.6 billion US$ or 1.2 billion Euros by 2015) and then in other algae markets.
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