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Danish and Indian firms come together for seaweed biofuel project

Joint venture looks to offer scalable seaweed to biofuels solution

India’s Sea6 Energy is helping to develop biofuels from seaweed
Denmark’s Novozymes and India’s Sea6 Energy have teamed up to develop biofuels from seaweed

Danish biotech company Novozymes has teamed up with India’s Sea6 Energy 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 energy from ethanol.

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

Per Falholt, executive vice president of Novozymes said the exploration of seaweed use is a “natural complement” to the company’s efforts to convert other types of biomass to fuel ethanol.

“More than half of the dry mass in seaweed is sugar, and the potential is therefore significant,” he said.

Shrikumar Suryanarayan, chairman of Sea6 Energy, added that developing an efficient enzymatic process to convert seaweed to sugar “will offer a scalable and sustainable alternative to expensive and polluting fossil fuels”.

Seaweed, technically known as macroalgae, 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” and these could be used to create large-scale seaweed farms in offshore locations.

Significantly, Sea6 Energy is also pioneering approaches to fermenting the sugars derived from seaweed to produce fuel in a way that minimizes the use of fresh water resources. It is also currently trialing its cultivation technology in partnership with a few fishing communities around the coastal areas of South India.