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New IEA Bioenergy Report Finds “Significant Opportunities” for Algae

The IEA Bioenergy Technology Collaboration Program has published an update on the status and prospects for using micro- and macroalgae as bioenergy feedstocks. The report acts as an update to the IEA Bioenergy Task 39 report published in 2010—but this report’s scope is expanded beyond biofuels to consider bioenergy options more generally, acknowledging some interesting developments that have been happening in the algae bioenergy space.

The results of the report are insightful and exciting. The overarching conclusion: “significant opportunities exist to take advantage of the high photosynthetic efficiency of algae, both micro- and macroalgae, for bioenergy and biofuels production.” While the report acknowledges that economic and sustainability challenges still exist, there are ways to mitigate and ultimately solve those challenges in the short-, medium- and long-term.

Some key findings from the report include:  

  • Nearer term opportunities exist to use algae in an integrated biorefinery context to make higher value food, feed, nutraceutical and oleochemical bio-products, to help drive development of economic bioenergy production
  • Recent technology developments facilitate the use of all algal biomass components; no longer is algal biomass production focused solely on achieving high lipid yield
  • Macroalgae have significant potential as a biogas, chemicals and biofuels crop in temperate oceanic climates in coastal areas. 

Notably, the report stresses the importance of data sharing and harmonization of analytical approaches in the industry—a finding that we fully support.

For more about the report and its findings, visit the IEA Bioenergy website.

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