Car drives 80 kilometres on fuel from seaweed

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By Milthon Lujan

A breakthrough in Denmark, where a passenger car was the first in the world to drive 80 kilometres on a blend containing biofuel from seaweed. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research produced the biobutanol from sugars from seaweed. The successful experiment stems from the Horizon 2020 project MacroFuels.

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research worked closely on this development with MacroFuels partners, and specially with the Dutch technological institute TNO and the Danish Technological Institute (DTI). TNO produced raw material out of seaweed from which biobutanol was made in Wageningen. The biobutanol was mixed with conventional gasoline, resulting in 100 litres of B10 fuel with biobutanol. The results of the engine tests showed that this mix is just as suitable as conventional fuels. The test car delivered comparable performance and the emission results also matched.

Rich in sugars

Some seaweeds are naturally rich in sugars, which makes these organisms very suitable as a raw material for high-quality biofuels. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research has expertise in the extraction and conversion of sugars from macroalgae and other sugar-rich biomasses. In MacroFuels a fermentation process has been developed to convert the sugars from seaweed into biobutanol. Technological developments such as these are needed to be able to replace liquid fossil fuels with sustainable biofuels. It is expected that heavy transport and aviation in particular will still depend on liquid fuels in the next decades. By replacing fossil raw materials with biobased raw materials, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced.

Scaling up

The challenge for the coming years is to scale up the production of seaweeds using sustainable cultivation methods and to lower the costs of these seaweeds to levels that allow economic processes towards biofuels or other products. The EU directive for renewable energy states that the share of renewable fuels for heavy transport must reach 14% by 2030 at the latest. 3.5% of it must come from advanced biofuels, with seaweed as one of the raw materials. The MacroFuels project has laid an important knowledge base for this. MacroFuels started in January 2016 and runs until the end of 2019.

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dr. AM (Ana) Lopez Contreras 

Source: Wageningen University and Research

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