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CBE JU Flagship Project

Alginor Takes Lead in €14.4 Million PROTEUS Flagship Project Aiming to Develop a New Bio-Based Industry Utilising Brown Seaweeds

The PROTEUS consortium, headed by Alginor and comprising 11 international partners, has secured a €9.6 million grant from the Circular Bio-Based Europe Joint Undertaking (CBE JU) to undertake €14.4 million project over the next four years. This initiative aims to establish the world's first fully integrated industrial biorefinery for brown seaweeds in Norway and is perfectly aligned with Alginor’s business plans.

The project formally launched on 1 May 2024, with Alginor hosting a kick-off meeting in Oslo on 14–15 May as project coordinator. Kjetil Rein, CEO of Alginor ASA, said in his keynote speech that this project is a significant milestone, unlocking the full potential of brown macroalgae.

Key Facts – PROTEUS Flagship Project to Establish the World's First Industrial Scale Biorefinery for Brown Seaweeds

  • Project Overview: The PROTEUS consortium aims to launch the first fully integrated industrial biorefinery for brown seaweeds in Avaldsnes, Norway, implementing sustainable bio-based ingredient production to support environmental and European climate goals.
  • Innovative Biorefinery Technology: Utilises state-of-the-art technology to maximise biomass utilisation from 15% to 100% without harmful chemicals.
  • Sustainable Practices: Focuses on eco-friendly harvesting, optimised water and energy use, and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Collaborative Effort: Funded by the Circular Bio-Based Europe Joint Undertaking with a €14.4 million budget over four years, including a €9.6 million grant. The consortium includes 11 international partners, enhancing bio-based product impact across several industries.
  • Significant Milestone: PROTEUS sets new standards for harvesting, biorefining, and application of brown seaweed derived ingredients in food, feed, personal care, and bio-based industrial markets.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Aligns with European climate goals by reducing petrochemical dependence and greenhouse gas emissions through extensive recycling and optimised resource use.
  • Future Prospects: Plans to produce over 5,000 tonnes of high-value ingredients annually, with future biorefineries to expand macroalgae biomass and species utilisation.

Strong International Consortium Committed to Setting New Standards in Bio-Based Renewable Production

The consortium is committed to a holistic approach that covers the entire supply chain, from harvesting and biorefining to producing finished ingredients and developing end user products for the food, feed, personal care, and industrial sectors. Emphasising the establishment of new industry standards, the consortium incorporates eco-friendly practices, optimises water and energy usage, and promotes extensive recycling. A key priority is to create an industry aligned with European climate goals, reducing dependency on petrochemicals, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring long-term sustainability and supply of bio-based renewables.

The consortium includes the following partners and their principal activities:





Personal Care

Bio-based Industrial Uses

Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment

Biodiversity Impact Monitoring

Dissemination & Communication

Commercial Exploitation

About the Circular Bio-Based Europe Joint Undertaking

The CBE JU is a €2 billion partnership between the European Union and the Bio-based Industries Consortium, funding projects to advance circular bio-based industries in Europe.

The official consortium press release can be found here.

Why This Project is Important for Alginor: Converting “Waste” into Value

Alginor was established with the vision of maximising the utilisation of Laminaria hyperborea beyond the production of alginates. By extracting a broader range of valuable components from the kelp, Alginor aims to transform these into high-value ingredients with applications across numerous sectors. This project embodies Alginor’s mission to convert what is currently discarded as waste into valuable ingredients, unlocking new potential in the bio-based industry.

Adoption of bio-based ingredients is a key priority within the EU, which has launched several initiatives to support the development of new bio-based industries. It is generally accepted that the global population will need to adapt and increasingly rely on marine resources to support a growing population and transition to a sustainable resource economy.

Norway has the largest occurrence of L. hyperborea globally, with an estimated standing biomass of over 50 million tonnes. This represents a largely untapped renewable resource with the potential to support sustainable food security as the global population grows. Current trends and policies, combined with this abundant resource, lay the foundation for expanding the Norwegian industry to meet the growing demand for bio-based ingredients.

  • The Potential: A Portfolio of High-Value Ingredients with Superior Economic Efficiency

Alginates, with numerous established uses across various industries, including medical and food applications, have been and will likely continue to be the industry’s most economically valuable output for the foreseeable future. Due to their scarcity and unique properties, particularly in sectors requiring high gelling power, the industry can remain highly profitable based on alginates alone.

However, there is significant untapped potential in increasing output and value creation per tonne of harvested raw material by utilising non-alginate components, such as fucoidan and cellulose. By eliminating factors that hinder further refining of the biomass beyond alginate extraction, a diverse portfolio of ingredients can be developed, unlocking the true potential of the biomass. This approach translates into a sustainable and flexible production process, utilising up to 100% of the harvested biomass with only an incremental increase in input factors, now allocated across a product portfolio rather than a single ingredient. Moreover, producing more ingredients enhances diversification across sectors, facilitates the tailoring of the biorefinery’s output to capture prevailing market trends, and reduces overall exposure to market risk.

  • The Challenge: Manufacturing High-Quality Alginates While Utilising Production Side Streams to Increase Value and Prevent Waste

In PROTEUS, the aim is to utilise the entire biomass to develop a portfolio of ingredients derived from the same feedstock, L. hyperborea, including alginates, fucoidans, cellulose, seaweed extracts, kelp fibres, and kelp powders. Leveraging Norway’s abundant access to premium renewables, combined with Alginor’s advanced harvesting and processing technologies – developed through several EU projects (e.g., AORTA II and DACOTA) – and the consortium’s expertise in application development and environmentally responsible practices, Alginor is well-positioned to execute its business plan. This will begin with the launch of Hypomar Ocean 1 and the pilot facility at Avaldsnes, followed by the establishment of the industrial biorefinery at the same venue.

A critical component for any new establishment in the industry is the baseline production of alginates, which provides a solid foundation for developing new bio-based ingredients. As such, one of the first tasks within the project will be to establish the interface between harvesting and alginate production. This strategy not only makes economic sense but also reduces risk by providing a stable basis for the further development of new ingredients to less mature markets with higher inherent risks.

The project seeks to extend production beyond alginates, capturing the added value found in the valorisation of production side streams while preventing any biomass going to waste. From a technical standpoint, this requires meeting at least two crucial requirements:

  1. No use of toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, which make it impossible or economically unviable to extract additional ingredients.
  2. An integrated harvesting and biorefining operation designed to separate raw material components and isolate individual components (e.g., fucoidan) and/or utilise complexes of ingredients (e.g., multicomponent seaweed extracts).

Having solved the first requirement and making significant progress on the second, Alginor has established a strong foundation for the project moving forward. Both components are critical to Alginor’s business plan and the project’s success.

Moreover, when considering challenges and the project’s success, the following is of vital importance:

The financial support from the EU is essential for accelerating development and commercialisation. Without this contribution, Alginor, being in the early stages of establishing its business, would likely have to prolong the development timeline and focus primarily on the alginate route, which has less technical and commercial risk.

From a commercial standpoint, the consortium comprises highly experienced partners with significant expertise in general and bio-based application development. Working directly with potential future customers within the project reduces risk and increases visibility and potential for the new ingredients being developed and adopted within target markets.

Additionally, experts in dissemination and public awareness will contribute to ensuring maximum project impact and visibility, potentially increasing the adoption of Alginor’s ingredients and the consortium’s offerings.

Combined with experts on sustainability issues and responsible practices, the consortium, spanning the entire value chain, is well-positioned and highly motivated to tackle any challenges that may arise during the project. This benefits Alginor, the consortium, the EU, and the wider bio-based industry.