CORDIS - EU research results

Alginor's Ocean Refining Total utilisation Application

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - AORTA 2 (Alginor's Ocean Refining Total utilisation Application)

Reporting period: 2020-03-01 to 2020-12-31

Alginor ASA aims to develop and commercialise high-quality ingredients from the giant kelp Laminaria hyperborea (Lh) through its novel biorefining technology – AORTA. In today’s market there is a scarcity of high-quality kelp ingredients, making it a customer pain point to acquire enough ingredients. The current state-of-the-art seaweed-industry only utilises about 15% of the harvested raw material, and their technology requires extensive use of toxic chemicals with pollutive qualities. Alginor’s innovation is based on green chemistry and increases resource efficiency from 15% close to 100%, resulting in a significant increase both in profitability and the number of ingredients for sale to the global markets, without compromising the environment.
Alginor’s innovation facilitates for total utilisation of the harvested biomass through biorefining and the extraction of 12 ingredients, a dramatic increase over the current industry’s average of 1-2 ingredients.

Today’s seaweed industry in Norway requires extensive use of formaldehyde for the production of alginates. The remaining postproduction biomass (about 85%) is contaminated with formaldehyde and released back into the ocean as waste. Formaldehyde release is strictly regulated in Norway and requires a state issued permit which states the legal annual limit for formaldehyde release, effectively limiting production. Alginor’s methods bypass the need for formaldehyde during both harvesting and processing. Consequently, Alginor is not affected by the limitations related to formaldehyde release and the company can potentially increase harvesting and production volumes dramatically.

With its 100 million tonnes, Europe has the largest standing biomass of Lh worldwide. State-of-the-art only harvests around 170,000 tonnes each year due to formaldehyde regulations, although there is a standing biomass of approximately 4 million tonnes open for regulated, commercial harvesting each year.
The overall objective of the project has been to verify the AORTA technology and its potential, and Alginor concludes that the project has been successful.
Over 28 months and 23,400 work hours Alginor has further developed, tested, optimised and verified the AORTA technology through piloting in relevant facilities. The results have been structured in detailed reports. The financial strategy has been developed in a substantial financial model, and plans are written for commercialisation, data management, dissemination of results and protection of IPR. In short, The AORTA 2 project lays a solid foundation for further demonstration and commercialisation of the technology.

The results of the project WPs and associated deliverables can be summarised as follows:

• WP 1: Kick-off meetings held with involved parties. IPR plans were made for Hypomar, MVP and FPP.
• WP 2: Mechanical design of the entire harvesting system was completed. A successful functional prototype was made, which provided proof of concept. The Hypomar harvesting system was verified and led to a complete harvesting method applicable for large-scale harvesting.
• WP 3: All process steps for the MVP and FPP products have been mapped and integrated into a process chart. The entire AORTA technology has been tested and verified both in-house and at external facilities.
• WP 4: Agreements with selected external piloting facilities were signed, and raw material was shipped for testing. Process technology was verified both in-house and at external pilot facilities. Extracted products were analysed and benchmarked against market knowledge and customer input.
• WP 5: Technology has been tested at selected external piloting facilities and at Alginor’s own facilities. Process technology was verified both in-house and at external pilot facilities. Extracted products have been analysed and benchmarked against market knowledge and customer input.
• WP 6: A thorough commercialisation plan was made for the MVP and the FPP based on reports, online research, customer contacts and in-house know-how. A substantial financial model (Integra) covers the commercialisation and business strategy with detailed estimated financials for bringing the full product portfolio to market.
• WP 7: Intermediate project reports have been sent to the EU-commission. A data management system was been created with the main tools for handling and manage project data related to both the company and project data. In addition, a detailed plan for disseminating and communicating the project results has been made.
• WP 8: Regulatory and ethical issues related to Alginor and the MVP was mapped. An ethics report was made, covering all possible ethical and regulatory concerns for the company.

As the technology and results from this project are corner stones in Alginor’s business and future plans, the project outcomes will be utilised long after project end. The impact of the project, especially the environmental impact, will also be a core value in Alginor’s business moving ahead. Harvesting with minimal disruption to the seabed and surrounding wildlife, production with close to 100 % raw material utilisation and minimal water usage and a complete value chain free of chemicals with long-term toxicity paves the way for a greener seaweed industry. An important outcome of this project is to prove that such a technology is viable, and that result is important to share with the current industry and policy makers to encourage a shift in the industry.

The financial impact of the project will mainly be disseminated to investors, financial intermediaries and local stakeholders, where it is of great importance to show that by utilising the entire seaweed and treating all by-products as separate, commercial products, Alginor greatly increases its profit margin compared to competitors and presents a more environmentally viable and friendly production process.
The project has resulted in a complete and verified technology for biorefining of kelp, that will be utilised in Alginor’s planned production facility. The harvesting technology is innovative and environmentally friendly, with significantly less impact on the seabed and surrounding marine life. The AORTA biorefining technology is expected to lead to a dramatic increase in various ingredient groups extracted from kelp, as well as ingredients with higher quality than what is currently available on the global markets.

The company seeks to demonstrate that it is possible to implement sustainable, large-scale commercial harvesting of kelp without using a traditional kelp trawler, and thereby avoid potential damages to the seabed and surrounding life. This may in turn potentially lead to changes in the industry and an improved overall reputation for the industry.

Green chemistry and no use of toxic chemicals is firmly rooted in the company’s innovation. Alginor expects that a successful commercialisation of its innovation will have a positive environmental impact and lead to improved overall ingredient quality. Most of today’s seaweed industry is located in Asia. AAlginor aims to increase the value creation in Europe by offering knowledge, continued research and jobs in the kelp industry, and thereby contribute towards Europe becoming an industry leader.
Laminaria hyperborea