Green promises gold as algae becomes fuel

HUNDREDS of jobs could be created as algae blooms in the Shoalhaven.

The Algae Tec test facility on Bomaderry’s Manildra site was officially turned on during a ceremony yesterday, sparking the beginning of a test phase to verify whether algae can be viably produced as a commercial fuel source.

Algae Tec chairman Roger Stroud was confident the process was not only viable but could quickly be expanded to about 2000 shipping containers growing algae in optimised conditions on land near Bolong Road.

Each shipping container is expected to produce 250 tonnes of algae annually. Two thousand containers would take a million tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year while producing 3.5 million barrels of refinable oil and 500,000 tonnes of feedstock.

A large plant producing algae oil and converting it to biodiesel and jet fuel could create 600 jobs or more, Mr Stroud said.

A key to large scale production is providing optimal conditions including plenty of carbon dioxide, which is being pumped directly from Manildra’s ethanol production, to “create a perpetual algal bloom”.

In fact Manildra chairman Dick Honan contacted Mr Stroud to offer his assistance after hearing him speak of his plans on the radio.

Mr Stroud said he expected the process to receive some sort of financial incentive through the federal government’s carbon tax but he had not included it in his calculations.

“This will be a world first,” Mr Stroud predicted, adding it was the culmination of 12 years work and research.

Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher said the test facility was “important to Australia” as it looked to developed new forms of renewable energy, and particularly ones that did not take up valuable food sources.

“It is a pathway to the future,” he said.

“While it is not a future that will be easily achieved, what you’ve shown is courage and a commitment that will take us there.

“We may not be doing as well as we’d hoped in London, but we’re certainly winning gold here,” Mr Hartcher said.

The initial emphasis will just be on one form of algae offering high oil content and exceptional growth rates in conditions available within shipping containers, however head of the Shoalhaven Marine and Freshwater Centre at Wollongong University’s Shoalhaven campus, Dr Pia Winberg, is working with Algae Tec to look at other algae forms that can be grown and refined for specific purposes including neutraceuticals and even ethanol production.

Mr Stroud said Dr Winberg had been “a godsend for us”.

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