Algae production facilities. (Photo: Aurora Algae)
Algae-based biomass production scheme gets USD 2mln grant
Monday, October 01, 2012, 04:20 (GMT + 9)
Aurora Algae has announced the successful completion of requirements for a AUD 2 million- (USD 2.01 million) Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) grant used to advance the company's algae-based biomass production at its demonstration facility in Karratha, Western Australia.
Thanks to the full payment of the Australian State Government-sponsored grant, Aurora Algae was able to develop a pilot production facility that consistently produces between 12-15 tonnes of algal biomass per month, within six 4,000 sqm-ponds. The firm has also been able to create cost-effective and resource-efficient methods for growing, harvesting, extracting and producing high-quality, algae-derived products.
With the project now complete, the biomass produced by the firm can be used to develop products in various markets, including nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, aquaculture and renewable energy.
For example, Aurora is an algal omega-3 specialist that sees a “unique opportunity for high purity EPA as a standalone ingredient” as the omega-3 market becomes more sophisticated, and its new facility will give it an advantage, NutraIngredients reports.
The economic and environmental benefits of producing algae in Western Australia are significant, according to Aurora. Its algae is grown in seawater and thrives in hot, dry climates, so the company can leverage arid land that is typically unsuitable for other forms of agriculture, and thereby the water requirement for growing and producing algae in Karratha is less than 1 per cent of that used to grow similar products from soy beans.
Further, Aurora's biomass has proven to be extremely productive, producing 10 times as much oil and 40 times as much protein, per unit area, as soy beans.
Aurora’s process is different: unlike algae grown in fermentation tanks, the firm uses CO2 as a feedstock, rather than a volatile agricultural commodity like sugar or corn; CO2 is readily available from industrial producers in the region, who are eager to slash their carbon emissions.
The next phase of the programme will be to expand Aurora Algae's facilities and produce biomass on a commercial scale.
"Aurora Algae plans to break ground in Maitland in 2014 for an expanded commercial facility consisting of 100 ha (250 ac) of algae ponds, capable of producing up to 600 tonnes of biomass per month, and scalable to 2,000 ha (5,000 ac)," said Matthew Caspari, managing director at Aurora Algae.
"LEED funding for the pilot programme has been critical to the success of the project and our ability to expand in Western Australia," the director added.
By Natalia Real