Algae.Tec begins production at photo-bioreactor in Nowra | RenewEconomy

Algae.Tec begins production at photo-bioreactor in Nowra

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The listed algae fuel company opens facility at Manildra ethanol plant to establish the yield from its unique enclosed algae growth systems.

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Listed Australian company Algae.Tec today officially opened what it described as the first advanced engineered algae-to-biofuels facility in Australia – another contender for what is widely expected to be a billion-dollar industry within a few years.

The facility, known as Shoalhaven One and situated in an adapted shipping container, is located at the Nowra refinery of ethanol producer Manildra. Algae.Tec hopes to demonstrate that its enclosed systems are scalable and high yield, and provide an attractive alternative to the open pond systems developed by rival algae producers.

The opening was the culmination of 12 years development work by company chairman Roger Stroud and his business partner, Earl McConchie, who developed an eponymous harvesting system known as the McConchie-Stroud System.

Algae.Tec says it plans to grow non-GMO algae on an industrial scale, and says its technology has demonstrated “exceptional performance’ in productivity and product yield. It captures carbon dioxide emissions from power stations and factories, and produces fuel that can be used in jets without displacing agricultural crops.

The algae photobioreactors (PBRs), which were assembled as its US headquarters, will take a carbon dioxide feed from the ethanol fermenters at the Manildra refinery into the algae growth system.

Chairman Roger Stroud said he expected the PBRs to produce around 250 tonnes of algae per container per year. “That will be a world first,” he said, adding that it was a yield far beyond what could be produced in open ponds. He says the footprint of its technology is less than one tenth of its rivals. “If you don’t get high yield, you won’t be competitive with fossil fuels. That’s the target market,” Stroud told RenewEconomy in an interview.

Stroud said the two major products produced by the algae will be jet fuel and biodiesel – creating a home-grown fuel industry just as oil refiners are leaving te market. But it could also be pelletised and use for animal feedstock.

“We could install one at any power station, such as the brown coal industry in Victoria, cement plants, or even big breweries if you like,” he said. “And it could work with other industrial sources depending on location. “ It was conceivable that a 2,000-unit plant could be built in Australia, generating $350 million of jet fuels a year, and employing 600-700 people.

Algae.Tec said verification and certification services company SGS will undertake the third party yield validation process. This will be a key step as it seeks to broaden its agreement with the likes of cement company Holcim in Sri Lanka, and potential partners in China, the US, Brazil, and in NSW.

Manildra managing director John Honan described it is an extremely exciting development for the company. “This programme with Algae.Tec will see the business working as the vanguard for the development of novel and varied alternative fuels for oil based fuels as well as for petroleum products,” he said. “The versatility of the Algae.Tec micro-algae strains means that it will be ideal to produce oil suitable for all kinds of fuels from diesels to kerosene.”

NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher, who opened the facility, says algae was attractive because it could capture emissions and create renewable fuels without affecting fuel production. He said this was particularly important for Australia, which once supplied two thirds of its liquid fuel needs, but now provides barely 20 per cent.


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  1. Gillian 8 years ago

    “the first advanced engineered algae-to-biofuels facility in Australia”??? What about Aurora at Karratha in WA? It is an algae-biofuel facility that has been operating a demonstration plant for a couple of years and this year it is investing $100m to upscale the operation.

    Aurora uses ponds not shipping containers, so does that mean it isn’t ‘advanced engineered’?

    Also, I’d like Algae Tec to explain the claim that their process “Effectively sequesters today’s atmospheric carbon dioxide” (on their website). Surely any CO2 taken up by the algae will be released as soon as the fuel is burnt? If they can’t substantiate this claim it is misleading advertising.

    • Raf 8 years ago

      “the first advanced engineered algae-to-biofuels facility in Australia”???

      Im pretty sure they mean ‘enclosed system’.

      “Effectively sequesters today’s atmospheric carbon dioxide” (on their website). Surely any CO2 taken up by the algae will be released as soon as the fuel is burnt? If they can’t substantiate this claim it is misleading advertising.

      Sure, the CO2 is re-emitted……but it is still better than emmitting CO2 from fossil fuels.

      Apples for apples, it allows the continuation of the fuel economy with a net neutral (or close to) carbon footprint.

      This is a good news story Gillian.

  2. Gerard Dean 8 years ago

    Great if it works out, but I have a question.

    What I cannot understand is, where does the energy come from?

    If the algae is grown in a shipping container like facility, it cannot gain energy from sunlight. Carbon dioxide isn’t an energy source, so where does the energy come from?

    If it works, it will be fantastic, because every day Australians burn about 80 million litres of non renewable hydrocarbon JetA1 fuel.

    Keep up the good work.

    Gerard Dean
    Glen Iris

  3. Hans-Henning Judek 8 years ago

    We have been working with algae for a while, especially with Botryococcus braunii.

    However, the major problem with algae is that you have to starve them to produce oil, as this is their protection mechanism. In other words, you cannot increase the yield without sacrificing the oil.

    Another, even more severe problem, is the energy balance. There are currently only a handful of systems that can produce more energy in form of biomass than they use for electricity (pumps, separation, etc.) Raceways, all pipe-based systems, regardless if horizontal or vertical, show a substantial negative energy balance. A net-energy production is meanwhile only possible with some few flat-panel systems. And that is just the biomass production, without even separating it and converting it to usable fuel….

    There is a very good study from SUBITEC, a spin-off of the reputable German Fraunhofer in Stuttgart on the net.

    I am really curious to learn more about this system.

    The CO2 and energy balance will be a major bottleneck in the future, as from 2017, to be accepted as biofuel by the EU, a fuel has to have at least 50% fewer CO2 emissions in the LCA compared to fossil fuel. I am wondering, how that pencils out.

    Producing fuel, even A1 jet fuel with various methods and from diversified feedstock is no witchcraft anymore, the devil is in the details.

    We are now using a special hybrid grass (PowerGrass) that produces 600t (120-140t dry) of biomass per hectare without the enormous CAPEX in case of algae. So our productions CAPEX is $400 compared to currently up to $1 million for algae with comparable yields (40t of diesel per hectare). They will have to produce a lot of fuel and make tremendous profits to catch up with these figures.

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