Annual Report:

"Microalgae and Higher Plants as Renewable and Sustainable Resources of Biofuels", Annual Report; December 2006 –December 2007.

Executive Summary

This report is composed of ten chapters each of which was devoted to a specific peace of work or activity performed by the research team of R&D Centre during a full year round from December 2006 to December 2007. Each chapter is an independent entity including comprehensive, complete and integrated information and data covering the topic, the chapter is assigned for.

Chapter 1 presents detailed information about the R&D Centre. It is crystal clear that scientific research plays a vital role in the development of any industry. For this reason, it was an essential step taken by PetrOtech-ffn, Egypt to establish its new Research and Development (R&D) Center in Mansoura City. Information given throughout the Chapter 1 include, address of R&D Center, management board, research team, technician and assistants, students and trainee. Fair description was given to the physical environment and infrastructure of the R&D centre. To fulfill its mission the R&D center was designed to include good equipped laboratories of chemistry and biology. The R&D centre consists of; 1) - Chemistry Lab., 2) - Instruments Lab., 3) - Microalgae and Botany Lab.,  4)- Algal culture room, 5)- Store room, 6)- Washing room, 7)- Manager's office, 8)- Reception area, 9)- Conference room, 10)- Tea room, and 11)- Service area (kitchen and toilets). Intensive information covers the equipment, instruments, computers, glassware, and chemicals as basic elements of infrastructure.

Chapter 2 was devoted to give concise but precise hints about the range of current strategic research activities. Brief information about current and future researches on algae was clearly addressed. Algae represent reliable raw material for the production of renewable and clean biofuel such as biodiesel and bioethanol. This Chapter includes concise information about the expertise developed by the R&D research team regarding biodiesel researches. Biodiesel is a very attractive alternative fuel of petrodiesel and it can be effectively used to power the current diesel vehicles. R&D center achieved big research efforts to seek for renewable biodiesel feedstock resources. Freshwater microalgae and non-edible seeds of some plants proved outstanding feedstock of biodiesel. Short information about researches on bioethanol was also included in Chapter 2. Bioethanol is an alcohol made via the fermentation of the sugar components of biomass. Ethanol can be used, in its pure form, as a fuel for cars. However, it is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase its octane number and improve vehicle emissions. Chapter 2 threw light on findings of R&D team indicating that some of the investigated algae, plants, and agriculture by-products can be used as excellent natural organic candidates for animal feed industry. The chemical analysis of these materials revealed that all are rich in carbohydrates, protein, and contain considerable amounts of lipids (ether extract fraction). Some of them are exceptionally rich in vitamin E and others are precious sources of a wide variety of antioxidants particularly β- carotenes.  Few lines about research trials on reliability of microalgae and some agro-wastes as candidates for organic fertilizers were also given.

Chapter 3 disposes the future strategic and advanced researches of the R&D Centre including researches on genetic engineering, tissue culture, biopolymers, and pharmaceuticals. The genetic engineering emerges as one of the most significant tools for the overproduction of lipids from microalgae. The enzyme Acetyl CoA Carboxylase (ACCase) was found to catalyze a key metabolic step in the synthesis of oils in algae. The R&D team has achieved to date, a relatively promising progress towards the overproduction of Biodiesel feedstock lipids from genetically engineered algae. The R&D Center has started to establish a tissue culture lab for micropropagation of Jatropha. Concise information about are given in Chapter 3. Based on deep, intensive and extensive literature survey, the R&D team realized the importance of biopolymers to the animal feed and organic fertilizers. A marginal research activity was directed to the large scale production of crude biopolymers from algae. These biopolymers will be added to the PetrOtech products of animal feed and organic fertilizers.  The whole process will follow a definite scientific research plan. Chapter 3 also includes concise information about the future outlook of R&D Center towards the industry of pharmaceuticals.

Chapter 4 includes detailed information about standard methods used for chemical analysis. These methods: 1) - Determination of total ash of air dried biomass of forage and algae, 2)- Estimation of crude fibers and dry matter, 3) Determination of total carbohydrates and reducing sugars, 4)- Determination of total nitrogen and crude proteins, 5)- Determination of total phosphorus, 6) Extraction, estimation and characterization of crude oils, 7)-  Production of biodiesel via base- and acid-catalyzed reactions. The information given will be of prime importance for the interested readers.

Chapter 5 includes comprehensive data about researches with microalgae. Information given covers algae as reliable feedstock of biodiesel in addition to the deriving forces for algae-biodiesel biotechnology. Mass production of microalgae represents a key issue of chapter 5. Detailed information was given about mass production of microalgae in open ponds and Photobioreactors. Isolation, purification, and researches on microalgae were clearly addressed throughout the chapter. Oil productivity of some selected algae was discussed. Chemical analyses of some algae lipids revealed their suitability as feedstock for biodiesel production. Details are given in Chapter 5.

Chapter 6 was devoted to the bulky research on higher plants. It has been repeatedly mentioned, and must be continuously reminded, that the main research activities of the R&D Centre are mainly focused on searching for outstandingly reliable biological feedstock for biofuel industry. In this respect higher plants represent vital research biological tools. It is very important to know exactly the link between the chemical composition of a given biomass and the nature (e.g., quality and quantity) of the biofuel it may produce. Another important issue is to assess the sustainability and continuity of feedstock and biofuel cycle. Great attention has been paid to estimate the quantity of lipid fraction and to chemically validate its suitability of being promising feedstock for biodiesel production. Seeds of some higher plants proved to be outstanding resources for economic production of oils. Fortunately most of the extracted oils maintain certain physical and chemical properties that make them superior feedstock for biodiesel industry. Chapter 6 paid considerable attention to the criteria for selection of plant or plant material as research tool. Certain selection criteria were set for validating a plant or plant material as a promising research tool with expected positive economic impact on large scale production of either biodiesel and/or organic stuffs of animal feed and organic fertilizers. This chapter gave detailed information about researches on 27 higher plants with special reference to their economic significance of being feedstock for biofuels, animal feed or organic fertilizers.

Chapter 7 gives a brief description about batch laboratory scale of biodiesel production from oils extracted from seeds of PTFFN-EG-006. This chapter includes diverse information covering transesterification of plant oils to biodiesel, the experimental design, basics of defining the molar ratio between the reactants (Oil : alcohol), materials used, method adopted, determination of biodiesel yield, chemical composition of biodiesel produced, in addition to properties and technical standards of biodiesel produced from PTFFN-EG-P006 seed oil.

Chapter 8 includes important information revealing the suitability of microalgae and plant biomass residues as feedstock for animal feed production. The ambitious vision of PetrOtech is to become a leading international company in the field of renewable biofuel energy. Investigating the potentialities of microalgae as potential feedstock for biodiesel and bioethanol production was a focus of intensive past and current research programs. The research and development (R&D) team of PetrOtech investigated the reliability of some plants and their by-products as potential sources of biofuel. The selection of a given biological material for biofuel research was based on sound scientific and economic basis set by PetrOtech and follows the standard international criteria. Some investigated algae, plants, and agriculture by-products proved to be excellent natural organic candidates for animal feed industry. The chemical analysis of these research materials revealed that all are rich in carbohydrates, protein, and contain considerable amounts of lipids (ether extract fraction). One of these biological materials is exceptionally rich in vitamin E. Others are precious sources of a wide variety of antioxidants particularly beta carotenes. The bulky part of chapter 8 includes pertinent information about the characteristic morphologic features, applied significance and nutritive value of each feed material. Additional supporting information indicating the significance of PetrOtech stuff materials as potential resources of animal feed are given at the end of this chapter.

Chapter 9 highlights the significance of algal and plants biomass residues as organic fertilizers. The term residue here denotes the organic solid matter left after achieving a major process as, for instance, oil extraction.  The solid residue of defatted press cake of PTFFN-EG-P002 is a sound example of being outstanding organic fertilizer. Supporting evidences came from some preliminary lab and field experiments. Some interesting field experiments were carried out at a newly reclaimed soil, mostly sandy, located in Nubaria SW Alexandria. In field trials, a variety of field crops including vegetables and fruit plants have been used as test crops. PTFFN-EG-P002 press cake was used either alone -as a solid powder or as aqueous extract- or in combination with other additives. These field experiments gave clear-cut evidence that Jatropha press cake is a promising feedstock of organic fertilizers. Whether used alone or in combination with other additives, Jatropha press cake is a promising feed stock for a newborn industry in Egypt of natural organic formulations with great importance to land fertility and food security and safety.

Chapter 10 declares the design, construction, and readiness to launch the World Wide Web (www) page of PetrOtech-ffn, Egypt. No doubt, the internet makes the world a small village in communication sense. As PetrOtech-ffn, Egypt is looking forward to become a leading international company in the field of biofuel, it seems a must to be introduced to the world society through a web page. A decision was therefore taken to construct a web page through which the R&D team can post information about the ongoing research activities and future strategic plans. Chapter 10 disposes the first design of the web page which will be activated soon. The page will be instantly updated and improved. The Website shows five domains; 1) - About us, 2) - Human Resources, 3) - Community Services, 4) – Achievements, and 5) - How to contact us. Chapter 10 displays the layout of these web pages.