THE potential of using algae as biofuel is being examined on the Haven waterway.
Marine biologists from Swansea University have installed a new seaweed farm in Pembroke Dock to look into the possibilities.
The project, funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council, has a unique design with researchers also hoping to discover more about seaweed’s use as a food as well as its health benefits.
“The farm is an original design and there are no others exactly like it in the UK,” said Fleuriane Fernandes, a research assistant at Swansea University, “although there are other similar farms in Scotland and Ireland.”
The new structure is part of a project called MacroBioCrude which is run by a Durham University-led consortium. They aim to carry out research on the manufacture of hydrocarbon fuels from seaweed.
Millions of pounds have been invested globally to carry out seaweed research, as producing biofuels in the sea can remove some of the problems associated with making conventional biofuels – such as using crops for fuel production instead of food.
Researchers hope to carry out initial tests on the algae in a couple of months. “We will also be doing tests on the cultivation of seaweed as a food and its health benefits,” said Fleuriane.
High in protein and nutrients, seaweed is one of the world’s fastest-growing produce markets. Eaten for centuries in Wales as laverbread, scientists believe that it could become the world’s next superfood.
Opened last month, the 100m farm will sustain kelp cultivation for at least two years. “The project is ending in 2018 but we hope to carry on after that. It is all dependent on funding,” said Fleuriane.
“It took us a while to find a suitable location, but once we settled on Pembroke Dock the Milford Haven Port Authority were really helpful.”