At a pilot plant, algae will be grown for five years to evaluate the productive and economic feasibility of the project. (Photo: E-CL/FIS)
Over USD 14 million invested in new biofuel production
Tuesday, December 07, 2010, 01:20 (GMT + 9)
In a pioneering initiative in Chile, the corporate technology group Algae Fuels S.A. has developed second generation biodiesel production from microalgae in a pilot plant in Mejillones.
The aim of the initiative is to obtain an energy based on renewable and indigenous sources and reduce CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.
Algae Fuels Inc. consists of E-CL, Copec, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Rentapack and Bioscan, and has the financial support of InnovaChile and the Corporation for the Promotion of Production (Corfo).
The project required an investment of CLP 6.836 million (USD 14.1 million), of which CLP 3.245 million (USD 6.7 million) was provided by InnovaChile.
In the pilot plant will be grown algae for a period of five years, where they will assess whether the initiative is both productive and economically viable.
The challenge is to produce a mass of algae with high lipid content that can be converted into biodiesel.
The president of Algae Fuels, Arturo Natho, said the project has two important aspects. On the one hand, "the development of microalgal cultures in industrial terms, and on the other, obtaining biodiesel and by-products efficiently and economically," he told Diario Financiero.
The employers are relying on the success of the project because they claim that climatic conditions in which it is carried out are the most likely for which proper microalgae will occur.
They also don't require the extensive use of agricultural land for this project, because the algae can grow in small spaces and quickly. That is it's production is a source of continuous and inexhaustible energy, moreover, it can capture carbon dioxide from generation of thermoelectric power for growth.
The first phase for the development of the biocombustiblle fuel is the "exploration, isolation, purification and selection of microalgal strains." That is, the collection of algae from the sea, then studying it in Santiago and to identify suitable strains to grow it under local climatic conditions.
Then it's on to the stage of "production of microalgal biomass", which involves the transfer of the plants at the field laboratory in Mejillones, where they feed on CO2 from the chimney of the power generating plant accelerating the process of photosynthesis.
The last stage is the "harvest", after which the species is subjected to different chemical processes and centrifuged to obtain what is known as algal biomass. Finally, it is dried in a specialized kiln, chemically processed and then one can use the biofuel.
By Silvina Corniola