Seaweed cultivation provides a range of opportunities in different sectors. For biofuels it provides a sustainable and extensive biomass resource for the production of transport fuel, petrochemical replacements, heat and electricity. The refinery process will also allow for other valuable co-products. Cultivation of seaweed presents opportunities for collaboration with the Aquaculture sector in IMTA systems (Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture) to clean the water of excess nutrients from fish production. Seaweed farms also represent new added 'forests' in the sea, helping to create new pockets of biodiversity in the oceans; and help restore or enhance the natural resource, bringing numerous ecological, social and economic benefits.
Cultivation of seaweeds for bioenergy has many unique advantages over terrestrial crops:
The ocean is a vast and stable environment
No food supply conflict
No need for fresh water
Grow faster than any land plant and are just as productive or more, at capturing CO2
Seaweed are ocean biofilters
Floods, fires, droughts
Limited land space
Need to clear areas for planting
Food vs. fuel conflict
Large amounts of fresh water needed
Fertilizers and pesticides
Climatic conditions fluctuate far more on land, posing hardships for land crops to grow suitably and meet increasing market demands for bio-energy. The stability of conditions in the sea mean biomass can grow faster than any land plant with comparatively minimal human intervention and no detrimental impact to the environment.
The vastness of the ocean presents numerous possibilities for locating seaweed farms offshore where there is limited conflict with the local fisheries or shipping interests, and posing no conflict with food supply. Furthermore, they can be placed in conjunction with other marine operations (oil & gas, offshore wind and wave) opening up for a wide range of synergies and better utilization of ocean areas.