May 14, 2021

Canarias supports the cultivation of algae to obtain biofuels – La Provincia

Canarias supports the cultivation of algae to obtain biofuels - La Provincia

Water, R & D and the circular economy is the title of the round table held yesterday at the headquarters of THE PROVINCE / DLP, which has combined the experience from the private sector, public institutions and research centers to define cutting-edge strategies aimed at reducing the carbon footprint in the water cycle, and turn the Islands into a reference in the circular economy of water resources.

The act, moderated by the deputy director of LP / DLP, Fernando Canellada, has counted with the participation of Gonzalo Piernavieja, vice-councilor of Industry of the Government of the Canary Islands; Enrique Martín de Lorenzo, head of the Water Service of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Water of the Government of the Canary Islands; Gerardo Henríquez, manager of the Island Council of Aguas de Gran Canaria; Rafael Sánchez Ramírez, manager of the Commonwealth of Southeast of Gran Canaria; Baltasar Peñate, director from the Water Department of the Canary Islands Technological Institute (ITC); and Frank Rogalla, Aqualia's R & D director.

After presenting the different actions they carry out in their respective fields, they all agreed that the Canary Islands have the necessary ingredients (technology, knowledge, infrastructures, meteorology …) to become a natural laboratory of efficient systems of circular water economy; in addition to emphasizing the need to strengthen joint collaboration ties (public and private institutions and R + D + i) to successfully face present and future challenges in this field.

The colloquium started with the presentation of the director of the Canary Islands Delegation of Aqualia, Emilio Fernández Rodríguez de Liévana, of the main actions and projects of this water company, the third largest in Europe, present for 30 years in the Canary Islands, everything in the field of R + D + i, to improve the efficiency of the water cycle. As an example of the group's commitment to science, Fernández cited the creation, in 2008, of Aqualia's R + D + i Department, coinciding with the start of the economic crisis in Spain.


"We took the strategic step of creating it and of putting Frank Rogalla in front of us to start investigating and looking for ways to change, modernize or break the paradigm of the management of the integral water cycle as we know it today", said the director of Aqualia in the Canary Islands, who described as "exciting", the water sector in the Islands. In the opinion of Emilio Fernández, one of the main challenges lies in modifying the current concept of treatment plants and desalination plants because they are large consumers of energy. "In a territory like the Canary Islands, with so much dependence on energy and the cost that this implies, we believe that these plants should and can become at least neutral plants or even power plants." R & D will help break that tendency to consume water, treat it, drive it and return it to the environment, as we know it up to now, to encourage or initiate this slow, difficult path but in which we have to start working now, which is the circular economy. reusing that water, here it has been done for a long time in the agricultural sector, but there is still a long way to go ".

Fernández Rodríguez de Liévana gave way to the intervention of Frank Rogalla, in charge of explaining the projects that are underway, and who want to implant in the Islands, as is the case of Sabana (H2020) a sustainable algae biorefinery for the production of compounds bioactives for agriculture and aquaculture; and All-Gas in Chiclana (Cádiz) to generate biofuels from algae. "We have ideas and ideas that we would like to implement in the Canary Islands because we understand that this territory, with its unique climatic characteristics, may be ideal to host some of our most successful projects."

Frank Rogalla: "To treat wastewater, Europe spends the equivalent of two nuclear power plants"

Aqualia's director of R + D + i began his speech by pointing out that "with sun and sand you can grow more things than tourism", an idea instilled by the late ULPGC professor Guillermo García Blairsy, founder of the Spanish Algae Bank, Rogalla explained that in 2011 they achieved a European project financed with 12 million euros" to realize Guillermo's dream of moving cars with biofuel based on algae ", in reference to the All-Gas project developed in Chiclana.

"Our idea is to try to extract value from water, but not only from the water itself, but from the organic matter of the wastewater." In this sense, they work on nitrogen recovery or phosphorus recovery projects, – "a very limited mineral, 80% of the reserves are in Western Sahara, and without phosphorus no food can be grown, therefore it is a very important that we try to recover from wastewater. " He also emphasized the value of water as a source of energy. As an example of the magnitude of this challenge, he pointed out that "Europe spends the equivalent of two nuclear power plants only to treat residual water". The reality, said the researcher, is that wastewater has more energy than what is needed to purify, hence the need for a focused paradigm shift, not only that the water cycle is self-sufficient, but that it produces more energy of what he needs. "This is our strategy, focused on optimizing energy and making ourselves independent of the electricity bill." In this regard, he cited the All-Gas project that they have developed in Chiclana (Cádiz), where they move ten vehicles with only the biomethane from the algae.

"And now we are facing another challenge regarding desalination, and we have invented a small machine, a bioelectrochemical system that reduces this energy consumption tenfold, and we are looking for a place to demonstrate this new way of treating seawater in a more sustainable way ", he said, referring to the Canary Islands as an ideal territory for R & D & I in this area. "We always try to have an open innovation mentality, incorporating local ideas to understand the challenges and how to adapt the solutions to the right context," concluded Rogalla, whose Department is currently developing 10 European projects (5 LIFE and 5 H2020) on circular economy. and the zero carbon footprint.

Rafael Sánchez: "Our objective is to feed the water cycle with renewable energies"

The manager of the Commonwealth of Southeast of Gran Canaria recalled how the region has gone from being a depressed area with a real survival problem due to the lack of water in the 90s, to become an international benchmark in desalination. "The three city councils managed to solve the problem with a desalination plant, which grew over the years and met expectations, and now in the Southeast water treatment plant, the tertiary allows to obtain water of a quality similar to that of bottled water, although we do not use it for human consumption, but for agriculture. "

Nowadays the Southeast not only have sufficient water resources to cover the demand for water, but they also attend to the emergencies of Telde and San Bartolomé. Tirajana. "Now our fundamental objective, regarding water, within the Commonwealth, is the use of those energies that can be obtained naturally, not only from water, not only from the purification processes, but from the energies that abound in the zone, such as wind and photovoltaic ".

For this, they have already prepared a tender in which they include a water cycle that is exclusively powered by renewable energies, some variable and non-manageable such as wind and photovoltaic, and others that can be managed, such as biogas. "In this case, we have not raised it with the sewage sludge, but with other alternatives such as the tuneras, now we have a small experimental plantation to know its growth and the production of the biogas it gives us, and we are going to use waters that right now we pour into the sea, treated water that we have left over ". They also work with the ITC in other types of crops, using treated wastewater, and tertiary and drinking water, to observe the yields for mainly energy purposes.

Baltasar Peñate: "We have to bet on the gray water, we lose a very useful resource"

The director of the Water Department of the Canary Islands Technological Institute (ITC) pointed out the need to rescue the Canary Islands as a pioneer in many technological aspects of water treatment, such as desalination. "In the ITC we are making great efforts with European projects, to relaunch the activity of development and applied research in the Canary Islands, deepening the challenge of reducing the carbon footprint of the water cycle, for all it is known that the consumption of energy in The water cycle in the Canary Islands is of considerable impact, and therefore to apply any measure that reduces, and optimizes the use of energy or to produce, energy from water, is a great challenge for us ".

They are currently working on the creation of a Living-Lab, or open research laboratory in the Canary Islands in the field of desalination, which deals from the energy aspect with renewables, circular economy, brine, or new desalination technologies as alternatives to reverse osmosis. "We are open to testing and testing new initiatives, so that the Canary Islands will be a reference geographic space and a showcase for many technologies."

Among the challenges of the ITC, Baltasar Peñate pointed out the need to diversify the uses of water, "not only must we depend on desalination and underground resources, but firmly bet on the reuse of water, and with the current regulatory framework or future ones that come, we must be prepared, and that requires technology and research. "

We have to bet on the gray water, we are losing a very useful resource for buildings and industry, it is a water with excellent quality for certain uses, and mixing it with sewage is losing an important value in the water system. He also insisted on the need to address, from the point of view of social research, the tariff systems, in order to promote policies of savings and social justice and reduce energy impacts.

He ended his speech with a specific area of ​​the circular economy, which is the possible use of brine, sludge from the treatment plant. "The volume of brine and sludge in the Canary Islands is very interesting to promote small and medium scale solutions, because of the diversity of our treatment plants we can be talking about a solution for the use of sludge in different areas. international, and the Canary Islands can bet on this area not only to take advantage of these saline gradients energetically, but also to begin to address on-site solutions within a plant ", and concluded by emphasizing the need to get more support for research.

Gerardo Henríquez: "Desalination consumes 15% of all the energy that is spent in Gran Canaria"

The manager of the Insular Council of Aguas de Gran Canaria placed special emphasis on the control of losses. "Any water that we do not have to produce is a water whose energy we do not have to spend, and therefore the first door to close is through which water escapes, where we have to pull tools like Big Data or information technologies" , and in this sense, he cited the project of the Cabildo Aquagran of 2 million euros, to monitor the networks of the Island Council of Aguas de Gran Canaria in such a way that these losses are detected and resolved immediately.

Regarding the energy cost in the production and treatment of water, Henriquez reported that desalination in Gran Canaria accounts for 15% of all the energy that is spent on the island. "We are talking about a significant percentage and it is worth investing in I + D to solve this issue, we have to produce more water with a lower energy cost, purify with more quality and therefore we must continue researching in this field ".

On renewable energies, Gerardo Henríquez said that they are "inalienable" in a privileged territory such as the Islands. "In the Cabildo we have a project with an investment of 18 million euros, and the forecasts are that at the end of the process, which we estimate to be over 2021 or 2022, we have reduced the consumption of fossil fuels by 40%, than the monoxide be reduced by thousands of tons. " In this regard, he expressed the need to continue deepening in wind and photovoltaic energy in the desalination facilities, as well as in all the energy that comes from the sea. Finally, he recalled "the largest engineering project that is currently in Spain that is the Gran Canaria hydroelectric power station, Chira-Soria, which will be the fundamental factor for the penetration of renewable energies".

Enrique Martín: "The concept of circular economy has been developed effectively since the 20th century"

The head of the Water Service of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Water of the Government of the Canary Islands, recalled that "the concept of circular economy has been developing efficiently since the last century", after the incorporation of water management into the environment. And he recalled that it is incorporated into fundamental aspects, such as reducing consumption: "The water culture makes for example that domestic consumption endowments in the Canary Islands are below 200 liters per day in most of the islands. they place around 150 liters, and the hotel sector has been incorporated into environmental and not only economic concepts, tourist facilities of 375 liters per day have been reduced to 250 and this is the social culture of water in the Canary Islands. There has also been a strong commitment to recycling and water reuse.

Gonzalo Piernavieja: "We have gone from 8% to 20% penetration of renewable energies"

The Deputy Minister of Industry of the Government of the Canary Islands, recalled that in the field of R & D, the Canary Islands has leading companies that have developed technology that is being exported throughout the world, both in desalination and in the treatment of algae. They have also advanced, with the support of ITC, in matters of technological surveillance for companies in the water sector, and now work in industrial analytics. Legnavieja also recalled the strategies developed by the Government of the Canary Islands in R & D, circular economy, energy with strong support for renewables, blue economy, and sustainable development.

In algae biotechnology, he recalled the great project they carry out in the area of ​​microalgae with the Cabildo, companies and the Spanish Bank of Algae (BEA).

And as for the circular economy, energy-water binomial, pointed out that, with respect to the consumption figure of 15-20% of energy in the Canary Islands that goes to the water cycle, especially to desalination, one of the achievements is that "water sovereignty has already been achieved". He cited the effort of the Government of the Canary Islands "because we have passed in this legislature from 8% to 20% penetration of renewable energy, this is a global milestone, in an insular region this is the top, you can not reach more renewable penetration until Chira-Soria is working, with this we can say that we have achieved water sovereignty if we take an abstract balance and say that 20% of the electricity we consume could go to the water cycle and cover that demand ".

Finally, he stressed that the Government of the Canary Islands is open to working jointly with researchers and companies to be a benchmark in complete circular economy.


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