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Marine Foresight Series

Recent Submissions

  • Foresight Brief: Seaweed & Algae as Biofuels Feedstocks

    Marine Institute (Marine Institute, 2008)
    Seaweed is a known potential carbon-dioxide (CO2) neutral source of second generation biofuels. When seaweed grows it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and this CO2 is released back to the atmosphere during combustion. What makes seaweed, and in particular micro algae, so promising as a fuel source is their growth rates and high lipid (oil) content. Algae are among the fastest-growing plants in the world. Energy is stored inside the cell as lipids and carbohydrates, and can be converted into fuels such as biodiesel (in the presence of oils) and ethanol (in the presence of carbohydrates). Its high protein content implies that waste from the feedstock conversion process may yield a saleable waste stream as well. The level of interest in the use of algae as a source of biofuels (primarily ethanol and biodiesel but also methane and hydrogen) is rising globally. Several factors appear to account for this. Firstly, despite earlier predictions of stability in world oil prices, such non-renewable hydrocarbon source fuels continue to spiral upwards (having closed at $100 per barrel during Feb. 2008 for the first time) and there is a heightened awareness about the contribution of fossil fuels emissions to rapid climate changes. In this context, algae-based biofuels offer potential solutions since they are known to be a CO2 sorbent and their harvesting may not have a negative CO2 balance due to loss of CO2 absorbing landmass which is the current topic of debate about first generation biofuels. The Marine Institute of Ireland has experienced a rise in interest in seaweed and algae as a potential feedstock for production of biofuels, reflected by requests for data concerning the properties and composition of algae and seaweed, from both the research and industrial communities over the past several months.
  • Climate Change: Implications for Ireland’s Marine Environment and Resources

    Boelens, R.; Minchin, D.; O'Sullivan, G. (Marine Institute, 2005)
    Climate has always varied. However, the prospect of continuing global and regional climate change beyond that of normal climatic variation, due to a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, is now a real possibility. This has potentially serious implications, and possibly some benefits, for the future development of our marine resources. Predicted changes include a greater incidence of storm damage and flooding in low-lying coastal areas and various impacts on marine life including modifications in primary production, food chains and geographical ranges of some species. Increased storm intensity may have significant implications for coastal structures, navigation as well as marine search and rescue operations. Changing marine ecosystems will also have real implications for environmental monitoring, protection and conservation strategies. While international actions to curtail or reduce the rate of climate change are of paramount importance, even if such actions succeed the levels of greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere are likely to persist for several decades. We must, therefore, improve capacities to predict the types and rates of change and identify the adaptation measures that need to be applied in marine resource use and management. In the absence of policies and measures to prepare for and accommodate the changes, even the more moderate of the predicted scenarios will have significant social and economic impacts.
  • Marine Industries Global Market Analysis

    Douglas-Westwood Limited (Marine Institute, 2005)
    This report was commissioned by the Marine Institute and completed in March 2005. Its aims are to act as an input to the strategy development process and specifically to provide the following: • An estimate of the global market for marine activities in 2004 for sub-sectors defined by the Institute. • An estimate of the Irish share of the market. • An assessment of regional market trends and outturns over the period 1999-2004. • An estimate of the global market and growth prospects by sub-sector over the period 2005–2009. • Comments on factors that will impact in the longer term – to 2012.
  • Ocean Energy - Analysis of the Potential Economic Benefits of Developing Ocean Energy in Ireland

    Marine Institute; Sustainable Energy Ireland (Marine Institute, 2005)
    This report examines the potential for harnessing Ireland's ocean energy resources (wave and marine tidal currents) to produce electricity and the associated opportunity to develop an ocean energy industry in Ireland. Existing work, both in Ireland and internationally, suggests that there are opportunities to develop a competitive industrial sector around ocean energy in Ireland. Internationally, the technology is at an advanced experimental stage and there are prospects of commercial production being possible in the near future. However, the key question is whether the potential is sufficient to warrant Ireland engaging in a long-term programme of development. A consultation process undertaken by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI)and the Marine Institute indicated the potential. It also indicated that there are considerable risks. The aims of this study are to identify the potential economic contribution of ocean energy for Ireland and to devise a rational, viable, and economically feasible strategy to promote the development of the sector. This analysis leads to the conclusion that Ireland has an important opportunity to develop an industry, based on ocean energy.
  • Ireland's Ocean Economy and Resources

    O'Connor, J.; O'Leary, J.; Shields, Y. (Marine Institute, 2005)
    Although virtually all of Ireland's trade is by sea, and around 80% of the population live in coastal counties, Ireland's marine resource can more truthfully be described as an under-developed resource, or an under-utilised national asset. It contributes approx. 1% of Ireland's GNP - a much lower proportion than in most other maritime countries. Looking at it another way, Ireland's ocean economy - a well-kept national secret - is a wealth of opportunity, waiting to be discovered. This briefing document sets out to provide a profile of Ireland's ocean economy, and explain why, and how, the country should be seeking to develop its maritime resource in the coming years.
  • Marine Functional Foods and Functional Ingredients

    Hurst, D. (Marine Institute, 2006)
    This briefing paper gives insights into the issues surrounding marine functional foods and highlights opportunities for researchers in the marine sciences and food sciences areas to engage in collaborative research. It will be used as the basis for further consultation with the research community and firms in the marine and food sectors and to assist in exploring and prioritising research themes.
  • Ocean Acidification: An Emerging Threat to our Marine Environment

    Ni Longphuirt, S.; Stengal, D.; O'Dowd, C.; McGovern, E. (Marine Institute, 2010)
    This report aims to provide a concise overview of the present state of scientific knowledge of ocean acidification and its likely impacts on organisms and ocean ecosystems. This is particularly relevant in the context of the possible implications and ramifications of ocean acidification for Irish marine areas. Discussion on how mankind’s CO2 emissions are changing ocean chemistry; consequences of ocean acidification; ocean acidification as an emerging cause for concern; international policy drivers, strategies and necessary actions; and research and information needs are presented. Ireland’s marine location and extensive marine resources in our shelf seas, Atlantic waters and habitats of the west coast mean we are uniquely positioned to contribute to international scientific efforts to monitor and understand the impacts of ocean acidification. Monitoring and research of key biological, chemical and physical factors in these regions will allow us to determine the current status of Irish Marine waters, the rate of change in the carbonate cycle and the influence of this change on natural communities and ecosystems. The Marine Institute’s SSTI funded Sea Change programme includes a Rapid Climate Change programme. Under this, a two year collaborative project between NUI Galway and Marine Institute ‘Impacts of increased atmospheric CO2 on ocean chemistry and ecosystems’ is developing capabilities for measuring pCO2 fluxes, inorganic carbon chemistry and pH and is initiating baseline measurements of these parameters in coastal and offshore waters. This report summarises the issues and state of knowledge and communicates ongoing monitoring and research needs into acidification.