Seaweed Biorefinery

Large scale bio-refinery of seaweeds for the production of CO2 neutral chemicals, third generation biofuels and bio-energy.

This EOS LT project aims to adapt the biorefinery concept to seaweed. The biochemical composition of seaweed differs significantly from lignocellulosic biomass. Fractionation and chemical transformation processes for lignocellulosic biomass are therefore not directly applicable for seaweeds.

Seaweed cultivation and processing is new to the Netherlands. Although seaweed is cultivated for food and specialty applications in Asia, in general, only one component is obtained from the seaweed, with the remainder treated as a waste stream. The consortium aims to use the entire plant for the production of chemicals and energy. Only seaweeds native to the North Sea will be considered.

In our proposed biorefinery, the seaweed is first dewatered to remove a large fraction of the more than 80 % water that seaweed contains.  The seaweed is then fractionated into its main components, the primary biorefinery.

In the secondary biorefinery, the main components, sugars, proteins and minerals, are converted into bulk chemicals and energy carriers. The project aims to develop catalytic and enzymatic conversions. Direct catalytic conversion of whole biomass is also considered a viable route.

The project aims to convert the residues by digestion and pyrolysis. The mineral residues are targeted to be used in fertilizer applications to close the cycle.

There are many potential applications for the products of the biorefinery. Seaweed components or products derived thereof can be used as building blocks for polymers, starting materials for bleach activators, carbohydrate derived chemicals etc.

 Project details


Seaweed biorefinery.

Large scale biorefinery of seaweeds for the production of CO2 neutral chemicals, third generation biofuels and bio-energy

Project coordinator:

Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN)

Project manager:

J.W. van Hal, Ph.D.



ECN, Wageningen UR-FBR, Wageningen UR-Plant Research International, ATO-NH, Process Groningen BV, Irish Seaweed Centre, Rodenburg


1 september 2009 – 31 augustus 2013


Lange Termijn (long term)