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BioMara Strathclyde science meeting is a success

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A BioMara research workshop in April 2011 brought together the project's scientists for updates on progress and dialogue that promoted exchange of ideas between the six partners

In April, the BioMara partners came together at the University of Strathclyde for a science update meeting. The day-long discussions aimed to promote close liaison between researchers from the partner institutes, enabling them to update one another and exchange ideas. The consensus was that the meeting was beneficial and aided project progress.  Talks were presented by scientists from the partner institutes, and a forum was held facilitating discussion among the new staff recruited specifically to BioMara. (See "Meet the Team").

Summary of the talks:

Dr Alan Hernon from IT Sligo explored the opportunities for biogas production from algae in biorefineries.  He first contrasted fuel production from algae with that from agricultural crops, concluding that algal production did not compete with food production, minimised compliance issues and maximised credits under EU Directives.  Biogas from biorefinery production helps secure local energy supplies and may be used to power home heating, fuel vehicles or in combined power and heat plants.  Alan described the on-going research at IT Sligo including up-scaling of research facilities to pilot/demonstration scale.

Dr Grant Allan from the Fraser of Allander Institute at the University of Strathclyde began to explore the regional economic impacts of biofuels from algae.  Having established the goals for biofuel production, Grant explored the opportunity for trade-off amongst these goals and the technological options for biofuels in driving economic development.   Identifying “multiplier” ratios and potential offsets as significant to economic impact, the relevance of CGE (computable general equilibrium) modelling was explained and the programme of on-going research, including supply-chain identification and cost-benefit analysis, was defined.

Dr Peter Schiener from SAMS at the Scottish Marine Institute described his work developing methods for ethanol production from marine biomass.  Chemical composition of various species of seaweed and the effect of their acid hydrolysis was recorded and the methods for identification of ethanol-producing seaweed strains explained.  Peter contrasted these with other non-marine substrates for ethanol production and outlined his on-going programme of research.

Dr Michael Roleda from SAMS at the Scottish Marine Institute explored the production of oil by microalgae, for conversion to biodiesel, and explained the possible trade-off between oil productivity and rate of growth.  The impact of stress on the growing microalgae was explained and the possibility of achieving optimal growth combined with optimal oil production through selection and environmental manipulation was explored.  Michael explained his research programme including the use of recently acquired experimental photobioreactors.

Dr Steve Slocombe from SAMS at the Scottish Marine Institute explained his work on the role of gene expression in oil production by microalgae.  Triacylglycerols (TAGs) are retained in the algal cell as an energy reserve in response to stress, primarily nitrogen limitation.  Their production can be stimulated by nitrogen re-supply but high oil content restricts cell growth and division.  Oil productivity of algae is potentially many times (at least 10) that of equivalent agricultural crops (rapeseed, palm oil, sunflower etc.) but economic cost is presently much higher than that for petroleum, harvesting methods require energy, temperature can be limiting in our latitudes and production methodology needs further research.


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BioMara is supported by the INTERREG IVA Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

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