Can phytoplankton produce clean energy… and more?
What if we were able to use marine phytoplankton to cleanse factory fumes of carbon dioxide and produce valuable biomass at the same time? Together with energy provider RWE and project partners of Jacobs University Bremen, Phytolutions has managed just this.
On November 6, 2008 in the Cologne area, a state-of-the-art plant which efficiently absorbs and filters microalgae was unveiled. The most advanced of its kind in the world, the works’ inaugural operations were witnessed by the Head of State for North-Rhine Westphalia, Dr. Jürgen Rüttgers and the RWE board of directors.
This industrial pilot plant forms part of RWE’s local lignite-fired power plant, which also uses the site for research and development.
Figure 1: The bioreactor plant of 700 sqm in Niederaussem
Phytolutions: getting more from microalgae
Phytolutions has been an integral part of this clean energy project from its inception. We coordinated the installation of the bioreactors in Niederaußem and Jülich and sourced the algae. We continue to be directly involved in the operation of the plant via our own remote operation monitoring and control systems. In fact our involvement does not end with plant operations: Phytolutions is responsible for harvesting the algae, and we put this recovered algae to use again, exploring how it could be used further. In Bremen, we are running complementary experiments for the optimisation of algae use in Niederaußem, for which we are using modified reactors manufactured by Novagreen.
How does it work?
Inside the 600²m plant, marine algae are ‘fed’ flue gas from the power plant and so receive enough carbon dioxide – CO2 – to grow. Microalgae absorb much more CO2 than non-marine plants, and can grow up to twenty times faster. Alternative recovery techniques, for example for the production of biofuels or the operation of biogas plants are applied (see figure/photo 2?).
This project delivers proof positive that highly efficient coal power stations and innovative climate protection technologies really can go hand in hand.
Figure 2: pilot plant of RWE, Niederaußen, Cologne
Press Release of RWE Power AG: