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The next challenge will be to perform the second stage corresponding to the plant installation. (Photo: Universidad de Antofagasta)

Microalgae pilot plant opened

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Friday, May 17, 2013, 01:00 (GMT + 9)

After two years of work, a technology pool business for biofuel research opened the first stage of the pilot plant for the installation of microalgae culture systems in Tocopilla.

The consortium is made up of Desert Bioenergy SA E-CL (41 per cent of the total), the University of Antofagasta (31 per cent), Productora de Algas Marinas (12 per cent), Universidad de la Frontera (11 per cent) and Molinera Gorbea (5 per cent).

Bioenergy Desert’s next step is to perform the installation of the biodiesel plant.

Microalgae are farmed in pools and will be fed on the carbon dioxide from the combustion gas produced in the electricity generating process.

As soon as the period of cell proliferation of the crops comes to an end, microalgae biomass will be harvested, separated and dried so that it can then be processed to obtain biodiesel.

The idea is that this initiative, in which around USD 7 million will be invested, contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

Apart from its positive impact on the environment, biodiesel can be used to make important byproducts, such as algal biomass meal, which is used in the production of fertilizers, cosmetics or food derived from livestock and aquaculture.

Given the nutritional value of this meal, the company will evaluate its potential in the food industry, for feed or for the functional food market, reported the UA.

The opening ceremony was attended by Desert Bioenergy general manager, Rodrigo Benavides; the rector of the University of Antofagasta (UA), Luis Alberto Loyola; the project coordinator and Vice Chancellor for Research at the UA, Carlos Riquelme; the regional director of the Corporation for the Promotion of Production (Corfo), Gonzalo Zavala; the E-CL plant manager, Arnoldo Valdes; and the mayor of Tocopilla, Fernando San Román.

Benavides explained the initiative was developed "with the support of scientists from the UA, the Universidad de la Frontera and Desert Bioenergy, in addition to E-CL plant workers in Tocopilla."

"I also emphasize the support of one of our main collaborators: the Polytechnic School of Tocopilla," the executive added.

Meanwhile, Loyola pointed out: "We believe this project has advanced far beyond what we thought when we planned it because it has stressed the importance of encouraging co-working, that the various bodies involved feel the project is theirs, that it belongs to society, to the country."


By Analia Murias
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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