biobutanol © WUR

A Danish passenger car was the first in the world to drive 80 kilometres on a mixture of biofuel from seaweed. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research produced the biobutanol from seaweed sugars. The successful experiment stems from the Horizon 2020 project MacroFuels.

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research worked closely with MacroFuels partners, in particular TNO and the Danish Technological Institute (DTI). TNO produced the raw material from which biobutanol was produced in Wageningen. The biobutanol was mixed with conventional petrol, resulting in 100 litres of B10 petrol with biobutanol. The results of the engine tests showed that this mix is just as suitable as conventional fuels. The test car performed similarly and the emission results also matched.

Numerous 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 extensive expertise in the extraction and conversion of sugars from macroalgae and other high-sugar biomass streams. In MacroFuels, a fermentation process has been developed to convert the sugars from seaweed into biobutanol. Technological developments such as these are necessary to be able to replace liquid fossil fuels with sustainable biofuels, says a spokesman for Wageningen University WUR. “Heavy transport and aviation, in particular, are expected to remain dependent on liquid fuels. By replacing fossil fuels with biobased raw materials, the emission of greenhouse gases can be reduced.”

Scaling up

The challenge for the coming years is to scale up the production of biofuels from seaweed using sustainable cultivation methods and to reduce process costs to economically viable levels for the production of biofuels and other products. The EU Renewable Energy Directive states that the share of renewable fuels for heavy transport must reach 14% by 2030 at the latest. 3.5% of this should come from advanced biofuels such as seaweed.

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Author profile picture Bart Brouwers is co-founder and co-owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.