Carlos Vanegas

Project Title:Optimisation of biogas production from marine algae biomass

Student Name: Carlos Vanegas

Supervisor: Dr. John Bartlett

Funding Body: INTERREG – BioMara project

The concept of using seaweed as a source of fuel is not new; however, it is the subject of renewed interest because of the escalating price of petroleum and, more significantly, the emerging concern about global warming that is associated with burning fossil fuels. The production of seaweed, unlike terrestrial plants, does not compete with food production and therefore makes a more favourable feedstock for the biofuel industry.

Seaweeds can be used as a feedstock to produce several types of renewable fuel, such as methane, the end product of anaerobic digestion (AD), a process whereby organic material from the algal biomass is converted to biogas. In this study, the optimisation of biogas production from three seaweed species, Saccharina latissima, Laminaria digitata, Ulva sp and Saccorhiza polyschides is being investigated. Different chemical, biological and physical pretreatment technologies are being employed with the aim of enhance the bio-digestibility of the seaweeds, increasing the release of macromolecules (reducing sugars, lipids and proteins) and improving the biogas yield.

Another alternative to improve the AD of seaweed and the biogas yields is co-digestion. The digestion of a mixture of two or more substrates (swine and bovine slurry) can provide an optimal nutrient balance by maintaining the proper C/N ratio in the reactor and therefore better digester performance and higher biogas yields. Co-digestion of algal sludge with other by-products of biorefineries, such as glycerol, is also a promising recycling strategy.  Glycerol is generated in large amounts as end waste product during the production of both bioethanol and biodiesel. Therefore, one possible solution for its use is the anaerobic treatment to produce biogas as a renewable and versatile energy source.

Finally, the organic residue produced from the AD (digestate) is used as an organic fertiliser during cultivation of terrestrial biofuel crops. An economically viable model for a seaweed based biorefinery is also proposed in this study.

 

Scientific disseminations 

 2010. 15th European Biosolids Conference, Leeds, UK (Oral presentation)A biorefinery approach to the production of biogas from algae.Alan Hernon, Carlos Vanegas, John Bartlett 
 2010. BioMara Workshop, Dundalk, Ireland (Poster presentation)An Eco-friendly strategy for pre-treatment of algal biomass.Carlos Vanegas, Alan Hernon and John Bartlett 
 2011. Research showcase IT Sligo, Ireland (Oral and poster presentation)Pre-treatment of seaweed for biogas production.Carlos Vanegas, Alan Hernon and John Bartlett 
 2011. The 21st Irish Environmental Researcher’s Colloquium, Cork, Ireland (Oral Presentation)Optimisation of seaweed biomass pre-treatment: an eco-friendly approach.Carlos Vanegas, Alan Hernon and John Bartlett 
2011. The 21st Irish Environmental Researcher’s Colloquium, Cork, Ireland (Poster  Presentation)Production of Fuel from Algae: An introduction to the BioMara Project.Alan Hernon, Carlos Vanegas,  and John Bartlett 
2011. BioMara workshop. Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland (Oral Presentation)Pretreatment of seaweed biomass towards biogas production.Carlos Vanegas, Alan Hernon and John Bartlett 
2011. Alg’n’Chem 2011, Montpellier, France (Oral presentation)Optimisation of algal biomass pretreatments towards biogas production.Carlos Vanegas and John Bartlett 
2011. 5th International Algae Congress, Berlin, Germany (Poster presentation)Anaerobic digestion of Laminaria digitata: the effect of temperature on biogas production.Carlos Vanegas and John Bartlett 
2012. The 22nd Irish Environmental Researcher’s Colloquium, Dublin, Ireland (Oral Presentation)Green energy from marine biomass: The effect of drying Saccharina latissima blades on biogas production.Carlos Vanegas and John Bartlett 
2012. BioMara workshop, SAMS, Scotland (Oral Presentation) Anaerobic digestion of seaweed: Perspectives from IT Sligo.Carlos Vanegas and John Bartlett 
2012. 2nd  International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels and Bioproducts, San Diego, USA (Oral presentation)Green energy from marine algae: Biogas production from anaerobic digestion of Irish seaweed species.Carlos Vanegas and John Bartlett 
2012. 4th International Conference on Engineering for Waste and Biomass Valorisation, Porto, Portugal. (Oral presentation) Anaerobic digestion of Laminaria digitata: The effect of temperature on biogas production.Carlos Vanegas and John Bartlett
2013. The 23rd Irish Environmental Researcher’s Colloquium, Galway, Ireland (Poster  Presentation)Isolation of anaerobic bacteria capable of degrading seaweed towards biogas production.Carlos Vanegas and John Bartlett 
2013. The 23rd Irish Environmental Researcher’s Colloquium, Galway, Ireland (Poster  Presentation)Methanogenic community composition in an anaerobic reactor producing biogas from seaweed.Carlos Vanegas and John Bartlett  
2013. The 23rd Irish Environmental Researcher’s Colloquium, Galway, Ireland (Poster  Presentation)Co-digestion of glycerol derived from biodiesel production with seaweed in a two-phase anaerobic digestion system.Carlos Vanegas, Colm Henry and John Bartlett

 Publications

2013. Vanegas, C. H, Bartlett J. Biogas production from the anaerobic digestion of Laminaria digitata in a 10L pilot-plant with digestate re-use as fertiliser. Journal of Ambient Energy (Submitted)

 

2013. Vanegas, C. H, Hernon A, Bartlett J. Enzymatic and organic acid pretreatment of seaweed for production of reducing sugars and biogas. Journal of Ambient Energy (Accepted for publication)

 

2012. Vanegas C, Hernon A, Bartlett J. The effect of chemical, mechanical and thermal pretreatment on two Irish seaweed species. Separation Science and Technology (Under review).

 

2013. Vanegas C, Bartlett J. Green energy from marine algae: Biogas production and composition from the anaerobic digestion of Irish seaweed species. Environmental Technology. DOI 10.1080/09593330.2013.765922

 

2012. Vanegas C, Bartlett J. Co-digestion of crude glycerol with macroalgae Laminaria digitata and Saccharina latissima. Waste and Biomass Valorisation (Under review).

 

2012. Vanegas C, Bartlett J. Anaerobic digestion of Laminaria digitata: The effect of temperature on biogas production and composition. Waste and Biomass Valorisation. DOI 10.1007/s12649-012-9181-z

 

2012. Vanegas C, Bartlett J. Can we produce green energy from seaweed? Irish Independent. http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/3096054.html