Increasing microalgae biomass feedstock by valorizing wine gaseous and liquid residues
Global warming caused by greenhouse gases (GHGs) is one of the greatest challenges and concerns for humanity. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are currently at their highest for some 800,000 years, yet mankind continue to emit them in increasing amounts. This is creating a pressing need to reduce GHG production wherever possible.
One industry affected by global warming – and an emitter of GHGs – is the wine industry. Many areas of Europe that were traditionally under vine are now an increasingly hostile environment. At the same time, however, fermenting grapes for wine produces CO2 as a by-product; this is contained in the so-called ‘off-gas’. The REDWine project will demonstrate the technical, economic and environmental feasibility using this off-gas created during red wine fermentation (rich in CO2) and winery liquid effluent to aid production of Chlorella biomass and extracts.
The CO2 generated – along with the liquid effluent from washing wine fermentation tanks, which is rich in carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus – will be used to feed microalgae production systems. The captured CO2 will be liquified and stored, while the washing water will have the organic compounds removed and the remaining water used to clean the tanks. This can then also be directed to algae production. The process should reduce overall CO2 emissions by more than 30%, while potentially generating a new revenue stream for the producers at the same time.
The overarching objective of the REDWine project is to reduce the overall contribution of wine production to global warming and valorising the outputs. Within this, it will also pursue some specific objectives.
- From an environmental perspective, the project will reduce GHG emissions – principally CO2 – by capturing and reusing the biogenic gaseous carbon from the value chain. In addition, in using the captured CO2, it will replace alternative industrial production-based methods, including combustion-based. Another environmental advantage will be that – by encouraging microalgae cultivation – it can replace fossil-dependent existing fertilizers with bio-fertilizers/bio-stimulants.
- From a societal perspective, the project will stimulate new opportunities in the microalgae fermentation sector. Given the locations of agricultural cooperatives, this in turn will create many new jobs in rural areas - perhaps as many as 11,000 direct opportunities - rejuvenating areas with low employment. Importantly, many of these will no longer be seasonal jobs, linked to harvesting and production.
- It will also help meeting a growing societal demand for healthier and more environmentally friendly products. Culturally, it will also help maintain European wine production, an important part of our heritage.
- From an economic perspective, it will provide winemakers with a more diversified year-round income stream. It will also increase the overall competitiveness of the European biomass sector through feedstock and energy efficiency, business growth and investment, at the same time as ensuring environmental sustainability and an increase in local biodiversity.
By achieving its overall objectives, the REDWine project will both reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from wine production and make use of it and of other side streams in microalgae cultivation. In addition to this, it will also make contributions to specific BBI JU KPIs. It will:
- create a number of new cross-sector interconnections in the bio-based economy. These include linking the grape producing agriculture cooperatives with microalgae production; linking wine production with microalgae cultivation; linking the wine sector with the food and cosmetics sectors and linking the carbon capture sector with the food, cosmetics and agriculture sectors;
- establish a new bio-based value chain, running from farmers and winemakers to consumer products. This new chain runs via carbon capture, microalgae cultivation technology suppliers, biorefinery operators and ingredient manufacturers/suppliers.
- formulate four new types of consumer products; vegan seafood, natural cosmetics, bio-stimulants/bio-pesticides and an eco-friendly, potentially vegan wine.
In addition, the REDWine technologies will substantially reduce the pollution created by the wine industry and increase its circularity of production. It will also help Europe release the potential of micro algae cultivation.