Sustainable cultivation of Nannochloropsis gaditana microalgae in outdoor raceways using flue gases for a complete 2-year cycle: a Circular Economy challenge

  • Alberto Rodríguez LópezEmail author
  • Silvia Burgos Rodríguez
  • Roberto Andrés Vallejo
  • Palmira Guarnizo García
  • María Dolores Macías-Sánchez
  • Miguel Gutiérrez Díaz
  • Rafael González Librán
  • Francisco Javier Fernández Acero


This research was undertaken in the framework of the Circular Economy. Its aim is to assess the technical feasibility and sustainability of a semi-industrial process for the outdoor cultivation of Nannochloropsis gaditana, using flue gases, on demand, from a coal-fired power generation plant. Within this main aim, three secondary objectives were defined: (i) to produce an accurate forecast of the annual average biomass production; (ii) to assess how the production rate and the biochemical composition of the biomass vary with the weather conditions over the course of a year; and (iii) to identify suitable markets for the biomass produced, in accordance with Spanish legislation. The study was carried out over 2 years, and an extra year was taken to analyze the results. The importance of this research is that it covers the lack of current knowledge, based on the available literature, regarding experimentation with microalgae culture outdoors, on a semi-industrial scale of 10,000 L, for a period of two full years. Our results show that, firstly, productivity changes from 0.025 ± 0.010 g (dry weight) L−1 day−1 (g d.wt L−1 day−1) to 0.160 ± 0.030 g d.wt L−1 day−1, as irradiation increases, and secondly, that the content of polyunsaturated fatty acids decreases, from 4.770 ± 0.770% dry weight (% d.wt) to 3.220 ± 0.535% d.wt, as irradiation increases. The maintenance of the culture during a complete cycle of 2 years, under the stated conditions, demonstrates the technical feasibility and sustainability of the process. In accordance with current Spanish regulations, the results of biochemical analysis of the harvested biomass confirm that it is suitable for use as animal feed.


Circular economy Flue gases Nannochloropsis gaditana Eustigmatophyceae Outdoor cultivation Raceway 



The results of this study were obtained during the project: “Aplicación del conocimiento científico y tecnológico en Andalucía para el desarrollo de un proceso de extracción de compuestos bioactivos a partir de microalgas”, grant number 14/775, financed by Corporación Tecnológica de Andalucía (CTA). This work was in collaboration with ENDESA, Novatec Ingenieros Asesores S.L., the University of Cádiz and the Instituto de la Grasa (CSIC).

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alberto Rodríguez López
    • 1
    Email author return OK on get
  • Silvia Burgos Rodríguez
    • 2
  • Roberto Andrés Vallejo
    • 3
  • Palmira Guarnizo García
    • 1
  • María Dolores Macías-Sánchez
    • 4
  • Miguel Gutiérrez Díaz
    • 1
  • Rafael González Librán
    • 5
  • Francisco Javier Fernández Acero
    • 6
  1. 1.Neoalgae micro seaweed productsSemi-industrial microalgae plant, UPT-litoralCarbonerasSpain
  2. 2.Open Innovation at Innovation and Product LabMadridSpain
  3. 3.Research Project Manager of Innovation Department (ENDESA Generación, S.A.)MadridSpain
  4. 4.Department of Chemical Engineering and Food Technology, Science FacultyUniversity of CádizPuerto RealSpain
  5. 5.Novatec Ingenieros AsesoresSemi-industrial microalgae plant-UPT LitoralCarbonerasSpain
  6. 6.Microbiology laboratory, IVAGROUniversity of CádizPuerto RealSpain

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