New dawn for WA biofuel industry in Pilbara

DEEMED by the WA Government to be the state’s future hub of a unique biodiesel source, the Pilbara is home to a new 20 acre demonstration algae production facility in Karratha.
According to Environment minister Bill Marmion the project, owned and operated by Aurora Algae, produces 40 times more protein per unit area than soya beans and uses 100 times less fresh water.
Aurora’s pilot production facility produces up to 12t of algal biomass per month in six 4000 square metre ponds. The facility will be used to develop cost-effective and efficient methods for growing, harvesting, extracting and producing algae-derived products such as biofuel, omega 3 oils and animal feed.
The project comprises 38 individual micro-ponds with automated harvest and nutrient feed controls.
“Aurora Algae’s project has multiple benefits: it does not compete with food production as some biofuel sources do and has beneficial by-products that help offset biofuel production costs,” Mr Marmion said. Following its study which found that the Pilbara would be a suitable base for an algae industry, the State Government partly funded the Aurora project through its $2 million Low Emission Energy Development initiative.
Regional Development and Lands minister Brendon Grylls said that although  the industry was young, the Pilbara had the potential to commercialise algae products for biofuel, health foods, pharmaceuticals and feedstock markets.
“The Pilbara is ideally suited to the development of the algae industry due to the abundant sunshine and close proximity to sea water – the two key ingredients for the efficient production of algae – and the ready supply of carbon dioxide that is a by-product of the resources sector,” he said.
Commercial production at Aurora’s upcoming Maitland facility, close to the demonstration site, is expected to begin halfway through 2014.
Maitland will house 50 ponds, with each 5 acres producing 600t of biomass per month and consuming 40t of carbon dioxide emissions per day.

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