Norway is known as a world leader in exporting oil and gas — but it’s also a leading fish exporter. However with global demand growing, feeding all these fish is getting more expensive and challenging. In the first half of this year Norway’s salmon export value reached the highest ever recorded and the value of exported Norwegian salmon to Asia during that time period was up 30 percent year-over-year.
At the same time that demand for farmed fish is growing, the aquaculture industry is facing a shortage of omega-3: the fatty acids used in fish feed. This process could be made more economical and sustainable with a little help from creative technological innovation.
In a new take on the concept of carbon capture, engineers in Norway are now trying to harness the carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and use it to grow fish food. The pilot project by Norway’s Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM) is using captured CO2 to grow omega-3 fatty acid-rich algae for fish feed. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for fish growth and are added to feed, are running low in global stocks and finding a sustainable, affordable source is crucial to the industry. The demand for omega-3 fatty acids in the nutrition supplement industry is also causing demand to rise.
The project, which received $1 million in funding from the Norwegian government, will grow algae in tanks in a 300-meter test facility using captured CO2 and heat from a gas-fired power plant. CO2Bio, a collaboration of industrial and research stakeholders including Salmon Group and Grieg Seafood, will operate the plant during the five-year pilot phase. The backers of the project told BBC that a metric ton of CO2 will produce a metric ton of algae, which they believe can yield 300–400kg of fish oil — a figure they hope to improve on by the end of the five-year test to determine economic viability.
“The need is approximately 100,000 tonnes, and that’s a large scale,” Svein Nordvik, from CO2BIO, told the BBC. “The reason for the test center is to develop the techniques and optimize the production line so we can have a decision on large scale production.”
From a greenhouse gas emission perspective, while pumping the CO2 underground would be better, using it for economically productive industrial practices is better than pumping it out into the atmosphere. The food will feed fish, which will nourish people and the refuse could be composted.
Nordvik also said he’s inspired by the chance to create a virtuous cycle by “addressing the growth in global population, as well as putting carbon emissions to good use.”