EIT Climate-KIC Demonstrator project Microalgae Biorefinery 2.0 is an algae production system designed for integration into water treatment works, where it can reduce energy use and produce a sustainable raw material with a range of industrial applications.

The problem

Ensuring a continued supply of clean water for human consumption and agricultural and industrial use means treating increasing volumes of wastewater. To remove nutrients and other pollutants, treatment works pass wastewater through multiple energy-intensive processes, usually powered by onsite biogas plants. However, biogas emits CO2, reducing the sustainability of wastewater treatment works.

The solution

Like all plants, algae absorb CO2 and produces oxygen. Algae is also a versatile biomass with many potential applications. Microalgae Biorefinery (MAB) 2.0 is developing a production system that grows algae in the side streams of wastewater treatment plants. When integrated into the waste-water treatment process, these microscopic plants significantly reduce the number of times wastewater needs to be cycled through treatment works, saving time, energy and money.

“There are many technologies on the market that produce algae, but they usually do so on sterile media, providing what the algae need in a fully controlled manner,” says Miklós Gyalai-Korpos, MAB 2.0’s innovation manager. “But in our case, the algae’s feedstock is a by-product of waste-water treatment.”

The impact

Microalgae Biorefinery 2.0 (MAB 2.0) is piloting its system with Budapest Sewage Works. Here, the presence of algae has reduced the energy intensity of the water processing, saving both time and money as well as reducing the waterworks’ reliance on biogas.

Furthermore, algae produce a useful biomass that can be sold on as a sustainable raw material for processing into biofuel, bioplastics, adhesives and even cosmetics.

EIT Climate-KIC’s role

The project joined with EIT Climate-KIC in 2013 as a Pathfinder project in order to test its feasibility. Today, as a Demonstrator project, MAB 2.0 draws on the business and technological expertise of EIT Climate-KIC partners across Europe, including PANNON Pro Innovations, Utrecht University, Wageningen University, Wageningen Food and Biobased Research, Budapest Sewage Works Pte Ltd, INRA, the University of Valencia and the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

Says Gyalai-Korpos,“Seven of our eight current partners were EIT Climate-KIC partners, and our industrial partner Budapest Sewage Works has engaged with Climate-KIC due to this project. These connections are a huge advantage.” He adds that the business development and technical support provided by the partners have been essential.