See Algae Technology (SAT) and JB, a leading Brazilian ethanol producer, have agreed to develop Brazil’s first algal biomass plant in Pernambuco, Brazil.
The plant represents an investment of around $9.81 million and will occupy 2.5 acres. SAT develops equipment that produces algae on an industrial scale for commercial applications. When complete, this facility will be producing algal biomass from both natural and genetically engineered algal variants.
Algae-based fuel is a neat idea, but it is expensive. But SAT has managed to bring prices down to a point where they are comparable to ethanol ($0.40 to $0.50 per quarter gallon, approximately).
This is largely due to See Algae’s transference of production to custom reactors some 16 feet high, from the earlier use of open-air ponds where environmental factors could make mischief.
However, SAT’s biggest breakthrough is in how light influences algal development, according to Gizmag.
In a pond, only the top algal layer gets sunlight; the lower layers remain under-nourished. SAT solved this problem with its ‘solar prism,’ a development that basically uses optical fibers to light up the reactors from the inside.
At the Pernambuco plant, these prisms will be connected to a neighboring JB sugarcane mill’s chimneys. The carbon dioxide generated in the sugarcane processing will be recycled to feed the algae, says Gizmag.
SAT and JB expect to produce around 317,000 gallons of biodiesel a year. Operations are set to begin in late 2013.
The proposed plant is a model of efficiency. The algae produced will be used to create animal feedstock that isn’t soy-based. Algal lipids will also be used in developing biodiesel and other biochemicals. And omega-3 can be sourced from algae.
The numerous applications of algae are extremely promising, and this partnership could provide innovation for the future of the algae business.