LIFE+ IntegralCarbon - Development and global enforcement of GHG capture photobioreactors in agroindustrial activities.

LIFE13 ENV/ES/001251

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Contact details:

Contact person: Jordi Rovira
Tel: 34983660158
Email: transferubu@ubu.es

Project description:


The EU is looking to transform its economy into a low-carbon one as part of its strategy to tackle challenges caused by changing climate patterns. One if one ways it will do this is by improving and developing sustainable agricultural practices. According to the European Commission’s Communication, ‘A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050’, by 2050 the agriculture sector can reduce non-CO2 emissions by 42-49% compared to 1990 levels. The sector has already achieved some significant reductions and more can be done in the two coming decades. For example, agricultural policies can focus on achieving even more sustainable efficiency gains, using fertilisers more efficiently, turning to the bio-gasification of organic manure, improving manure management, better fodder, local diversification and commercialisation of production and improved livestock productivity, as well as maximising the benefits of extensive farming.


The objective of the LIFE+ IntegralCarbon project was to develop and demonstrate a technology that captures the greenhouse gases produced by the agroindustry, fix those GHG in native algae biomass that can then be used as fertiliser in agricultural soil. The idea was to demonstrate the climate mitigation potential of that technology by developing a cultivation system of autochthonous algae harnessing the waste of different agro-industries: wineries, cheese producers and cattle. A pilot plant was designed and constructed composed of two prototypes: a waste pre-treatment prototype fed with the liquid wastes from the agroindustries, and an algae cultivation prototype, which is a tank where the algae grows with the pre-treated liquid wastes. The selection of the algae and cyanobacteria species was carried out according to their GHG storage capacity, among other considerations.

In short, the project aimed to capture GHGs, reuse waste from two agro-industries and reduce the use of mineral and synthetic fertilisers in agriculture, forestry and soil remediation.

Specifically, the project sought to perform an economic and environmental evaluation of the use of algal biomass production systems for a better GHG balance in agro-industry activities, to reduce the carbon footprint of the sector, promote the production of heathier food and agricultural sustainability.


The LIFE+ IntegralCarbon project successfully achieved its objective of developing and demonstrating a technology to capture the greenhouse gases produced by agroindustry activities and fix them in native algae biomass to be then used as fertiliser in agricultural soil.

Two versatile and mobile prototypes were constructed, namely the waste pre-treatment and the algae cultivation one. The first prototype, a double reactor consisting of a hydrolysis module and a anaerobic digester was fed with waste derived from agro-industrial activities. This process produced biogas - to be used as a heat source – solid digestate – to be used as fertiliser for agricultural soil - and liquid digestate – to be used as culture medium in the algae cultivation prototype. The second prototype is a tank in which the liquid digestate and its residual nutrients (e.g. N, P, K) along with additional microalgae, water and captured CO2 from the combustion of biogas produced algae biomass. The project obtained native algae species (microalgae) from soils of Cuenca, Cáceres and Burgos, and selected the most suitable ones to be cultivated in the pilot plant. After running the pilot plant in two implementation sites, the beneficiaries applied the algae produced in agricultural plots and demonstrated that the algae can replace the mineral fertilisation and improve the soil quality. The modified algae biomass can be used as soil bio-improver to diminish the agricultural dependence of mineral fertilizers and to achieve higher soil fertility and crop production. It was demonstrated that the LIFE IntegralCarbon technology will contribute to the reduction of the GHG emissions of the agroindustrial sector by enabling a more efficient waste management in line with the EU’s aim of becoming a circular economy and it will improve the soil quality by replacing the mineral fertilisers with native algae. It was demonstrated that by applying the algae as fertiliser, the agroindustries can save money by reducing the need to buy mineral fertiliser. By using their wastes to feed the pilot plant and by producing energy from waste, the agroindustries can also save money on energy supply and external waste management.

Despite this, it became evident that the LIFE+ IntegralCarbon technology is not economically feasible under the current scenario, considering the low market prices of fertiliser and waste management. The project, therefore, developed a participatory model to make the LIFE+ IntegralCarbon technology cost-effective even if not competitive on the market by getting two actors to work together: the farmer and the agroindustry, since both benefit from the prototype. The farmer gets algae as fertiliser for the soil and the agroindustry saves money on waste management and on energy bills. The investments needed to produce this participatory model, however rely on the financial CAP aid received by farmers.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Industry-Production - Agriculture - Forestry
Waste - Agricultural waste
Waste - Industrial waste
Waste - Waste use
Climate change Mitigation - GHG reduction in non EU ETS sectors


fertiliser‚  environmental impact of agriculture‚  waste use‚  emission reduction‚  waste treatment‚  food production‚  greenhouse gas‚  agricultural waste

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Universidad de Burgos
Type of organisation University
Description The Public sector beneficiary is the University of Burgos.


Project reference LIFE13 ENV/ES/001251
Duration 01-JUL-2014 to 31-DEC -2016
Total budget 1,253,361.00 €
EU contribution 602,636.00 €
Project location Madrid(España) Extremadura(España)


Read more:

Leaflet "LIFE+ IntegralCarbon: LIFE+ Integral Carbon: Desa ...
Poster "LIFE+ Integral Carbon: Desarrollo e implementació ...
Project web site Project's website
Project web site - 2 Project's Twitter page
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan (Spanish version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report (Spanish version, ...
Video link "LIFE+ Integral Carbon: Desarrollo e implementacion integrada de fotobiorreactores de captura de gases de efecto invernadero en agroindustria "Integralcarbon"" [ES - 1'53]
Video link "LIFE+ Integral carbon: Development and global enforcement of GHG capture photobioreactors in agroindustrial activities" [EN - 1'54]


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version