Saturday, December 10, 2011

Has AlgaeTec Cracked Algae's Biofuel Pricing Ability to Compete with a Barrel of Oil?

Amidst the relentless promotion of renewable biofuel alternatives to traditional fossil fuel hydrocarbons, the three leading contenders are jatpropha, camelina and algae. But among the many barriers holding back industrial production of biofuels is that no company up to now has yet figured out how to produce a gallon of biofuel at a price that can compete with gasoline.

Apparently until now, if press releases by Algae.Tec are anything to go by. The company, founded only three years ago, has offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Perth, Western Australia.

Algae.Tec founders, Earl McConchie and Roger Stroud, have been involved in the biofuel industry since 1999 and have developed a high yield enclosed algae growth and harvesting system, they labeled the McConchie-Stroud System, which uses low maintenance technologies and an efficient solar system to produce algae in one tenth of the land surface as compared to the current pond methods for producing algae. The McConchie-Stroud System photo-bioreactors produce oils which can be refined into biodiesel, sugar carbohydrates that can be used in the production of ethanol, proteins that can be used as feedstock for farm animals, and protein and carbohydrate biomass that can be combined to produce jet fuel.

Beating the PR drum for his company Stroud said, "Algae technology developed by the company has demonstrated exceptional performance, providing step change improvements in productivity, product yield, carbon dioxide sequestration, plant footprint requirements and substantial capital and cost savings as compared to agricultural crops and other competitive algae processes in the industry."

Most interestingly, for a world increasingly concerned with greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs), the McChoncie-Stroud System technology captures CO2 pollution from power stations and manufacturing facilities, which in turn are used to feed the algae growth system. Algae.Tec currently has 11 patent applications pending for its proprietary technology.

For a relatively new start-up company, Algae.Tec has already signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), one in China and the other in Australia and in January the company was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).

But moving beyond theory, Algae.Tec is now building a full scale prototype plant, having earlier this month signed a collaboration agreement to provide five bioreactor modules to Sri Lankan Holcim Lanka Limited cement and building materials company. The collaborative effort will result in Asia's first algae biofuels production facility designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cement manufacturing.

Holcim Lanka Limited decided to invest in Algae.Tec's technology as it had the dual benefit of reducing the company's carbon footprint by channeling waste carbon dioxide into the bioreactor's algae growth system, which in turn will generate biofuel at below market cost.

Note the phrase, "below market cost."Bringing the five photo-bioreactor modules will enable Holcim Lanka Limited to evaluate the benefits of capturing more waste carbon dioxide in a much larger facility, which in turn could lead to the company purchasing further modules for use at other sites.

Holcim Lanka Limited CEO Stefan Huber said, "the Algae.Tec facility is designed to reduce the cement manufacturing carbon dioxide emissions with an off-take into the algae growth system. We look forward to working with Algae.Tec on this exciting development that is aligned with our focus on sustainability and a commitment to the environment. Algae.Tec has a truly innovative technology backed by an expert international engineering team."

While Sri Lanka seems an exotic locale for such a facility, consider that Holcim Lanka Limited is part of Holcim Group, a global company with market presence in over 70 countries and is currently the second largest cement manufacturer in the world.

Accordingly, the potential for Algae.Tec contract is enormous, and what country has a surfeit of cement?

AlgaeTec is thinking far beyond Sri Lanka, targeted markets for its facilities in Australia, the U.S., China, Brazil and Southern Europe. If its McConchie-Stroud System technology can deliver on both recycling CO2 and provide biofuel at below market prices, then Algae.Tec will have a printing press for money that even the Federal Reserve might envy.

We shall see.

Posted courtesy of Dr. John C.K. Daly at

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