Daithi O’Murchu
Marine Research Station



Marine Algae as Biomass for Biofuel

green biofuels ireland


Currently most research into efficient algal-oil production is being carried out by the private sector, but if predictions from small scale production experiments are realised then using algae to produce bio-fuel may be the only viable method by which to produce enough bio-fuel to replace current world petrol/diesel usage. Micro-algae in particular have much faster growth-rates than terrestrial crops. The yield of oil from algae is estimated to be from 19,000 to 75,000 litres per acre, per year; this is 7 to 31 times greater than the next best crop, oil of palm (Sivasamy et al. 2007).


The main aim of this project is to investigate the feasibility of using algae (micro and/or macro) as a feedstock for producing bio-fuels in Turkey and Ireland.

The process of extracting algal-oil and converting to biofuel is similar to that for land-based crops.  Methods include: hexane extraction, supercritical CO2, organic solvents and/or pyrolysis (Aresta et al. 2005). The difficulties in efficient bio-fuel production from algae lie not in the extraction process but in finding a species with a high lipid/carbohydrate content and fast growth rate, and a cost-effective cultivation system (for micro-algae) that is best suited to that species (Sivasamy et al. 2007). Two methods are currently used to produce micro-algae for biofuel – raceway ponds and photobioreactors.

Scientific Objectives

Marco AlgaeA thorough review of all the information regarding this topic will be gathered. This will include a review of the bio-fuel products that can be extracted from algae, the extraction procedure and the oil yield of native seaweed species and cultured micro-algae. Optimal conditions for growth and culture methods for micro-algae will also be described.

The process of oil extraction from micro-algal species will be honed to achieve optimal levels of oil.

Methodology for the intensive and large scale culture of micro-algal species in indoor and outdoor facilities will be adapted to suit temperate conditions in Ireland.

Technical Objectives

Indoor Algal Experimental Units at the Daithi O’Murchu Marine Research Station

Technology transfer of micro- algal culture and biomass processing techniques Determination and visualization of the level of environmental risk-benefit, social and economic risk and economic viability/cost-benefit of the bio-fuel products developed. This will include an economic model for viable, industrialised-scale production and identify the best way of commercializing the bio-fuel developed. Dissemination of scientific and technical information to local communities, national and professional bodies, international associations and the broad scientific and technical aquaculture community. It will employ all media sources. A final scientific report will highlight the discovery and application of bio-fuel products, aquaculture and industrial processes involved, knowledge gaps to be filled and commercialisation route.


Funding Scheme – Marie Curie Industry Partnerships and Pathways

Start date – 1st June 2009

Duration – 48 months  Funding - €1,430,841

Researchers involved – 18 researchers (174 person months)

CLICK HERE for the GANTT CHART: Tasks, Project Milestone and Timetables

J.A. Maguire,
D. O’Neill,

Daithi O’Murchu Marine Research Station, Co. Cork, Ireland,

J. Tierney,
Green Biofuels Ireland Ltd., Wexford, Ireland.

G. Savidge,
M.J. Dring,

Centre for Marine Resources and Mariculture, Queens University Belfast, N. Ireland.

P. MacCartain,
Centre for Renewable Energy, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland.

S. Ibanoglu,
Food Engineering Dept. Gaziantep University, Turkey.

J. Janik,
Chemistry Dept., Ege University, Turkey.

G. Heath,
Dolphin Sea Vegetable Company, N. Ireland.



Marie Curie

This project is supported by the European Community Framework Programme 7, Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways, Grant Agreement No.: 230598


The Facility


Currently the facility contains a fully equipped laboratory, both pump ashore and recirculation units ...

Board Members

image - board members

The DOMMRS has two directors John Murphy and David O'Neill.

Research Interests

image - board members

The Irish marine sector currently has a turnover of €3 billion and supports over 44,000 jobs.