From seaweed to biofuels

01-Feb-2012 - India

Novozymes announced an exploratory research agreement with Sea6 Energy, an India-based company, to jointly develop a process for the production of biofuels from seaweed. The research alliance will use enzymes to convert seaweed-based carbohydrates to sugar, which can then be fermented to produce ethanol for fuel, fine chemicals, proteins for food, and fertilizers for plants.

Novozymes will research, develop, and manufacture enzymes for the conversion process, while Sea6 Energy contributes its offshore seaweed cultivation technology.

Seaweed, technically known as macroalgae, is one of the world’s fastest growing plants. It does not require irrigation or fertilizers, or take up arable land. Seaweed cultivation is an ancient practice traditionally carried out using long ropes and bamboo rafts. Seaweed can be produced at many locations in the world, but the warm sea conditions, abundant sunlight, and the possibility for several harvest cycles through the year make the waters around India particularly suitable.

Sea6 Energy has already developed ocean-farming structures that are robust and versatile compared to traditional methods of seaweed cultivation. These structures could be used to create large-scale seaweed farms in offshore locations. In addition, Sea6 Energy is also pioneering approaches to fermenting the sugars derived from seaweed to produce fuel in a manner that requires minimal use of fresh water resources.

“We are excited about our partnership with Novozymes and look forward to developing an efficient enzymatic process to convert seaweed to sugar,” says Shrikumar Suryanarayan, Chairman of Sea6 Energy. “Combined with Sea6 Energy’s offshore seaweed cultivation expertise, these conversion technologies will offer a scalable and sustainable alternative to expensive and polluting fossil fuels, while providing employment to coastal communities and energy security for our country.”

Sea6 Energy is currently trialing its cultivation technology in partnership with a few fishing communities around the coastal areas of South India. Novozymes’ Indian arm will work closely with Sea6 Energy to develop the conversion technology.

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