Finding suitable sites for large-scale algal biofuel plants

September 10, 2012 by Jo Manning

(—Scientists have for the first time identified a number of WA sites capable of producing large quantities of commercial biofuel from microalgae.

They say the best sites for big-scale algal biofuel plants include stretches of land south of Geraldton, south-east of Exmouth and large areas near Karratha and Port Hedland.

Professor Michael Borowitzka from Murdoch University's Algae Research and Development Centre and Assistant Professor Bryan Boruff from the School of Earth and Environment at The University of Western Australia used Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology to study more than 2250km of WA coastline from Lancelin to Broome and 170km inland.

Their report, Identification of the Optimum Sites for Industrial-scale Microalgae Biofuel Production in WA using a GIS Model, was prepared for the WA Government-funded Centre for Research into Energy for Sustainable Transport (CREST) and is the first WA-wide study of its kind.

Professor Borowitzka, a leading world authority on algal , said WA had several key advantages for suitable sites: abundant sunshine, extensive land unsuitable for agriculture and plenty of water in the Indian Ocean.

"But not all of WA is ideal for such plants, so we examined sites scientifically by assessing land suitability, access to infrastructure and workforce, carbon dioxide availability − along with nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus − and climate," Professor Borowitzka said.

Assistant Professor Boruff added: "Commercial success depends on economically viable, large-scale production, which is why this study is so important."

Professor Borowitzka said more research and development was needed to find the most energy-efficient and economically feasible way to extract and convert algal into renewable bioenergy.

Limited world and an ever-increasing for energy have prompted substantial interest in renewable biofuels. Professor Borowitzka has been at the forefront of research into producing biofuels from algae.

Algal biofuels − especially liquid fuels produced from algae oils − are seen as an important component of a future clean biofuels mix, he said.

Its fast growth rate and high oil content appears to make microalgae particularly well-suited to renewable biodiesel production and offers an attractive sustainable alternative source to other compounds such as carotenoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and polysaccharides.

WA already has the world's biggest commercial production plant at Hutt Lagoon, north of Geraldton.

Explore further: New sources of biofuel to take pressure off traditional crops

Related Stories

New sources of biofuel to take pressure off traditional crops

September 10, 2009

"Salt-loving algae could be the key to the successful development of biofuels as well as being an efficient means of recycling atmospheric carbon dioxide", Professor John Cushman of the University of Nevada told the Society ...

Clean algae biofuel project leads world in productivity

November 4, 2009

Australian scientists are achieving the world's best production rates of oil from algae grown in open saline ponds, taking them a step closer to creating commercial quantities of clean biofuel for the future.

Industrial production of biodiesel feasible within 15 years

August 13, 2010

Within 10 to 15 years, it will be technically possible to produce sustainable and economically viable biodiesel from micro-algae on a large scale. Technological innovations during this period should extend the scale of production ...

Microalgae 'bulging with biofuel potential'

July 10, 2012

MISA researchers from SARDI have isolated and evaluated a ‘super strain’ of a native microalgae species that could form the basis of a local biofuels industry.

Recommended for you

Winter season reverses outcome of fruit fly reproduction

November 24, 2015

Male fruit flies could find their chances of fathering offspring radically reduced if they are last in the queue to mate with promiscuous females before winter arrives, according to new University of Liverpool research.

New insight into leaf shape diversity

November 24, 2015

Many of us probably remember the punnett squares by which we were introduced to the idea of genetic inheritance in school: a dominant allele in each of my brown-eyed parents hides a recessive allele that explains my blue ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Sep 10, 2012
"Algal biofuels − especially liquid fuels produced from algae oils − are seen as an important component of a future clean biofuels mix, he said." Only by the petroleum (natural gas for nitrogen and fuel for mining potassium and phosphates) and fertilizer companies that control NPK fertilizer production. A global biofuel industry is estimated to increase current NPK demand by 4X. That's great if you'd rather drive than eat. Some scientist estimate we have as little a 30 years of phosphate reserves before the scarcity of quality phosphates (ones less radioactive) at reasonable cost for NPK food production skyrocket.

Today 85-95% of global food production is dependent on NPK. The poorer countries of the world are not likley to starve to death quietly and the chaos created is going to spread even more than it already has to wealthier countries. Wealth is no longer about how much gold a country has, it's about how much cheap energy and phosphates it has.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.