Technology institute keen to foster energy harvesting from seaweeds

ITI Energy has put out a call for parties interested in working with the publicly funded Intermediary Technology Institute to harvest energy from seaweed.

The Aberdeen-based organisation is investing up to £3.6million to develop seaweed anaerobic digestion and aims to facilitate the exploitation of a presently under-utilised, but a globally available, natural resource through the development of key enabling technologies.

Seaweed has significant benefits over land-based crops (lack of lignin, land use and so forth) but is presently uneconomic to harvest and process into fuel.

It has been harvested for many years on the Scottish west coast and around the islands for use in pharmaceuticals and food additives, though it is low key to what it once was. A traditional Welsh dish known as lava bread is based on a seaweed, and seaweeds are extensively used as food in Asia, especially.

Seaweed is essentially colonial algae, as opposed to a plant that typically grows on land. It is very wet, hence energy technologies such as combustion are less viable.

However, anaerobic digestion (AD), which can be accomplished with wet biomass such as seaweed, is a promising candidate, but the technique has not yet been optimised for seaweed.

The four-year ITIE programme is divided into three phases, each with discrete markets, technical challenges and intellectual property (IP) opportunities, as well as separate R&D work packages and tender competitions.

Phase 1 is focused on the near-term market opportunities to utilise seaweed anaerobic digestion as a value-adder in the soluble fibres industry.

Phase 2 will concentrate on the mid-term market opportunities to create sustainable and low-cost energy supplies for island communities.

Phase 3 is aimed at long-term market opportunities to intensify and automate the aquaculture industry.

ITI Energy wishes to commission fundamental research into anaerobic digestion of seaweeds into bio-gas. Ultimately, the organisation wants to optimise the anaerobic digestion of seaweed biomass into methane.

So it is inviting responses from companies, organisations, research institutes and universities which are interested in providing R&D services to this programme and have established skills and expertise in anaerobic digestion and/or enzymatic conversion.

Interested parties should download the detailed specification from the ITI Energy website and prepare a response describing their organisation’s research skills and expertise, a brief business history, current activities and contact details. Submissions of interest should be sent to seaweed.tender@itienergy. com. The deadline is December 19.

Anyone with queries regarding this ITT should contact Gavin Duke at or Michael Weston at michael.weston@itienergy. com, or phone +44 (0)1224 282630.