Microalgae are a promising and sustainable alternative for chemicals and plastics. If we can utilise them on an industrial scale, they will decrease our dependency on fossil feedstocks, and so contribute to climate mitigation. The SPLASH project researches the possibilities for producing and recovering hydrocarbons and (exo) polysaccharides from algae, and further converting them into polymers. PNO Consultants contributes by performing a stakeholder analysis.

Overview of the SPLASH project

Over the next four and a half years, SPLASH will broaden the range of platform biochemicals and biopolymers produced by biotechnological routes. It will do that by making use of an algal species named Botryococcus braunii (B. braunii). This species has a unique ability to produce, as the main biomass component, compounds that can be used as a substitute for typical petrochemical raw materials and components (long chain hydrocarbons). It also produces specific exopolysaccharides, a resource for new functionalities and applications.

Objectives of the project: developing an algae-to-polymer process

The overall concept of SPLASH is to produce biopolymers by using B. braunii as a producer and/or gene source for hydrocarbon and polysaccharide-producing genes. B. braunii and C. reinhardtii (both green microalgae) will be developed as production platforms. In addition, C. reinhardtii will be used to test candidate hydrocarbon-producing genes identified from B. braunii. An integrated downstream process will be developed for product recovery and further conversion of the hydrocarbons into polyolefin building blocks ethylene and propylene, and conversion of polysaccharides into adipic acid, 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (2,5- FDCA) and 1,4-pentanediol. These dicarboxylic and diol building blocks will be further polymerised into (co-)polyesters PEF (a substitute for PET) and PPeAF, and tested in the production of polymer fibre applications and packaging, respectively.

Our involvement in the SPLASH project

In this project, we performed a stakeholder analysis to determine the stakeholders’ position regarding the industrial deployment of the SPLASH platform. We used an online survey, which measured, among other things, their influence, interest and attitude towards the platform. Based on their high potential influence and clear interest in the SPLASH platform, we defined key players in the industrial deployment of the platform: algae production and processing companies, end-user companies, local governments, clusters and research organisations.

The stakeholder analysis was performed by PNO Consultants (NL) with support of Nova-Institute (DE), Value for Technology (BE) and Wageningen UR (NL). Approximately 650 organisations were approached, of which 10% participated in the survey. The next step is to assess, together with SPLASH partners, where stakeholders’ contributions are most needed and how they can be involved.