Posidonia oceanica is an iconic and highly productive Mediterranean marine plant (seagrass), which plays key roles in marine ecosystems. However, residues of this seagrass beach in tourist zones during the winter and spring, including in Larnaka (Cyprus), with negative environmental and socio-economic impacts. After beaching, this biomass is removed and disposed of to landfills. The use of Posidonia has been under consideration in several countries in the Mediterranean region, notably for the production of compost, bioactives, and energy (mainly as biogas). In this context, we propose to exploit the biochemical composition of washed-up Posidonia for the production of liquid and solid fuels, as well as heat by adapting approaches implemented for the valorisation of other types of biomass.
Posidonia biomass mostly contains two types of compounds: (i) cellulose and hemicellulose, which are polysaccharides than can be converted into precursors for the production of second-generation biofuels; (ii) lignin, a complex and recalcitrant polymer that can be used for heat generation. We will consider different treatment methods and fractionation techniques to separate these two types of compounds. Then, using our experience in land plant biomass, we will aim to produce solid fuels and generate heat from the lignin fraction, and a stream of polysaccharide derived sugars for fermentation into liquid fuel and platform chemicals. Most of these approaches are scalable, and residues produced during these processes have the potential to be used as fertilisers.
The rationale supporting this proposal is to exploit different components of the Posidonia biomass to produce biofuels (solid and liquid) and heat, which are forms of energy with different applications.
Transformation of beached seagrass into energy will help to balance the cost associated to the harvesting of this waste biomass, and provide a new stream of revenues for the local economy. In the longer term, and because beaching of Posidonia is seasonal, this proposal can be considered as a platform for the production of sustainable and biorenewable energy using other waste biomass available in the impacted area.
The Centre for novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), based at the University of York (UK) has been using science to underpin industrial and environmental biotechnology for more than 20 years. It has a long tradition of harnessing the power of nature to solve some of the most pressing environmental, societal and industrial challenges of the 21st Century. Through the engagement in national and international projects, we have gained ample experience and expertise in the analysis and valorisation of different types of land plant biomass and of seaweeds, including plant wastes and seaweed forming blooms, for the production of bioenergy and chemicals.