• 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.
    • 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.