FuTuReS – Economic and ecological evaluation of a biorefinery approach for the production of fucoxanthin and EPA on a pilot scale and transdisciplinary developed scenarios on an industrial scale in Germany

The aim of the project is the economic and ecological characterization of a process for co-production of the carotenoid fucoxanthin and the omega‑3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) with the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum on an industrial scale. For this purpose, real process data is used, and the use of residual material flows as well as surplus electricity for artificial lighting, is taken into account.

Fucoxanthin.
Fucoxanthin from the diatom P. tricornutum as a powder (> 95% w/w) and in solution.

Economic and ecological evaluation of a biorefinery approach for the production of carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids with microalgae in Germany

The overall objective of the FuTuReS  project is the economic and ecological characterization of a process for the co‑production of the carotenoid fucoxanthin and the omega 3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) with the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum on an industrial scale in Germany.

For this purpose, the microalgae were previously cultivated photoautotropically in flat‑panel airlift photobioreactors (FPA) at Fraunhofer CBP in Leuna. The intended evaluation is based on existing, empirical process data. It should take into account not only potential value‑added chains for the use of recycling and nutrient‑rich streams of residual materials, such as nitrogen, phosphate, and CO2, but also the supply of surplus electricity from biogas and photovoltaic plants in agriculture. Especially when there is a lack of light, e.g., at night, the excess energy can be used in particular for additional artificial illumination to significantly increase biomass productivity in photobioreactors.

P. tricornutum is a diatom that, due to its cultivation conditions, is particularly suitable for phototrophic production in Central European latitudes. Its high EPA, fucoxanthin, and protein content ensures a very high added overall value.

Publications

Within the FuTuReS project, two scientific publications on the production of eicosapentaenoic acid and fucoxanthin with Phaeodactylum tricornutum were published in 2020. Both bioactive valuable substances are interesting for human nutrition or as functional ingredients in cosmetic products. The manufacturing process developed on the basis of artificially illuminated flat plate airlift photobioreactors (Chem. Ing. Tech.) was techno-economically evaluated on the basis of different production scenarios (Algal Research). Thus, for the first time manufacturing costs for both materials could be determined and significant cost drivers identified.

Derwenskus, F.; Briviba, K.; Schmid-Staiger, U.;  Hirth, T. (2020). Coproduction of EPA and fucoxanthin with P. tricornutum – A promising approach for up‐ and downstream processing. Chem. Ing. Tech. 92(11), 1–11.

Derwenskus, F.; Weickert, S.; Lewandowski, I.; Schmid-Staiger, U.; Hirth, T. (2020). Economic evaluation of up- and downstream scenarios for the co-production of fucoxanthin and eicosapentaenoic acid with P. tricornutum using flat- panel airlift photobioreactors with artificial light. Algal Research 51, 102078.

Project information

Project title

FuTuReS – Economic and ecological evaluation of a biorefinery approach for the production of fucoxanthin and EPA on a pilot scale and transdisciplinary developed scenarios on an industrial scale in Germany

 

Project duration

October 2019 – October 2021

 

Project partners

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Stuttgart (Coordination)
  • Universität Hohenheim, Fachgebiet Nachwachsende Rohstoffe und Bioenergiepflanzen (340b)
  • Karlsruher Institute of Technology KIT
  • Institut für Technikfolgenabschätzung und Systemanalyse ITAS

Funding

We would like to thank the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR) for funding the project "FuTuReS", promotional reference 22017218.

Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.