Since 2006 there has been an explosion in government, university and private-sector industry interest in algae as a renewable fuel. This is manifested in the form of millions of dollars of investment in research programs.
Algae are simple plants that can range from the microscopic (microalgae), to large seaweeds (macroalgae), such as giant kelp more than one hundred feet in length. Individual species number in the tens of thousands. Having evolved over billions of years, these organisms generate energy and nutrient rich oils more efficiently than any other known natural or engineered process.
A much broader, presently untapped market opportunity exists in the transportation fuels industry. Investigation of the potential to convert algae into biofuels has witnessed an investment boom during the past decade. Private investment since 2000 is estimated to exceed US$2billion whilst US Government agencies have committed in the order of US$300million1.
These research and development efforts have seen algae-based fuels power passenger aircraft flights, navy vessels, and vehicles on a demonstration basis. However further investment is required to deliver technology capable of supporting commercial production.
Current trends in higher oil prices, continuing escalation of fossil fuel consumption, the depletion rate, advances in technology development and governments’ increased focus on global warming and renewable fuels have attracted new interest in algae as a potentially rich source of sustainable biofuels.The Benefits of Algae as a renewable fuel source are significant:
These benefits highlight the primary drivers and provide the basis for Algae.Tec's business strategy
Algae.Tec uses an enclosed modular high-yield, algae growth manufacturing system to produce sustainable and renewable proteins and oils. The enclosed photo-reactor system offers cost, scale and yield advantages over the open pond method.
In addition, the Algae.Tec system is designed to capture carbon dioxide waste (Carbon Capture and Storage CCS) from power plants and manufacturing facilities, which feeds into the algae growth system.
The Algae.Tec technology platform therefore delivers a reliable supply of sustainable and renewable advanced algae products.
Long prized by Asian cultures as both a delicacy and a rich source of healthy nutrients, algae in recent years has grown increasingly popular in western society. Algae is now seen as a “Super Food”, high in protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and a wider array of other nutrients, including B-Carotene, selenium, zinc, vitamins B-12, C and E.
Algae.Tec has established a collaborative Agreement with Nutrition Care Pty Ltd. to jointly develop algae based nutritional products. Nutrition Care is a leading Australian manufacturer of nutrition pharmaceuticals for domestic and international markets. Nutrition Care was founded by Professor Ian Brighhope who is seen a world leader in the practice of Nutritional and Environmental medicine. Nutrition Care has extensive reach into Asian markets (in particular China) with a solid reputation for premium quality and product standard. While a large variety of high value speciality algae based products and ingredients have strong production potential, the short term focus will be on Chlorella, B-Carotene, Spirulina and Omega 3 oil algae markets.
Ten species of microalgae are commercially produced at present for use as health extracts, food supplements and cosmetics. Supply is fragmented, with hallmarks of a ‘cottage industry’, however market value of existing world production has been estimated at US$800million2.
High carbohydrate algae species can be selectively grown to be used in the production of ethanol based fuels. These types of algae can contain very high percentages of carbohydrates. Alternatively, the carbohydrates can be converted into ethanol from lipid-extracted biomass residue in species that have been grown for their lipid production characteristics.
Nutraceuticals are various products that range from isolated nutrients, dietary supplements and herbal products, to processed foods and beverages. With the correct blend of enriched nutrients using custom selected micro-algae as a source, Algae.Tec is able to deliver specialty high value oils, antioxidant-rich products and supplements, as well as edible oils and pigments, which provide a variety of health benefits. This approach is a sustainable alternative to current feedstock options, for items such as Omega-3s, which are derived from static fish supplies. The Algae.Tec advantage provides both a quality and consistent product that meets the needs of many nutraceutical applications.
The unique properties offered by algal oil show opportunity in its application toward specialty oils such as lubricants and biological oils. Algae oil has even been used in feedstock for biological 3D printing.
Algae.Tec produces more oil and hydrocarbons per land mass than any other terrestrial crop, by orders of magnitude. The Algae.Tec system is capable of cultivating algae anywhere, including marginal land or industrialized locations. Current trends in higher oil prices, continuing escalation of fossil fuel consumption, and the accelerated depletion rate of petroleum reserves have led to advances in technology as a solution to global climate change. Renewable fuels have attracted further interest in algae as a potentially new source of sustainable biofuels.
1. Bracmort, K, 2013. Algae’s Potential as a Transportation Biofuel - Report for Congress. Specialist in Agricultural Conservation
2. Egardt, J., Lie, O., Aulie, J., Myhre, P., 2013. Project Blue Bio. University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology, Norwegian University of Life Sciences. USD/EUR Exchange Rate of 0.75 applied.