Primafuel launches Algae Biorefinery Program

By Bryan Sims | January 01, 2009
Web exclusive posted Jan. 8, 2009, at 5:18 p.m. CST

Signal Hill, Calif.-based Primafuel has unveiled an international Algae Biorefinery Program-a coordinated technology development effort intended to combine upstream algae production and downstream biorefinery systems that will inevitably serve as an innovative platform for commercializing algae technologies.

The company already has laboratories in Signal Hill, Calif., and Lund, Sweden. The international algae biorefinery laboratory will develop technologies specifically designed to produce algae-based high-value products and sustainable fuels, according to Rahul Iyer, chief marketing officer for Primafuel.

"Our scientists have developed unique technologies in bioseparations, thermochemical conversion and algae production, while our engineers are working to bring commercial-ready solutions to the market," he said.

Primafuel holds an exclusive licensing agreement with the Ben-Gurion University Microalgae Biotechnology Lab, a team recognized internationally as experts in strain selection, genetic engineering and aquaculture.

Led by Dr. Sammy Boussiba, the Israel-based team is comprised of more than two-dozen scientists, researchers and engineers. Primafuel's biorefinery technology team has been recognized as a technology pioneer by the World Economic Forum for transformational biomass processing technologies.

Primafuel's goals for the international Algae Biorefinery Program include designing key technology platforms to maximize the economic value of algae and exploiting the ability of certain algae strains to produce high-value fine chemicals and renewable fuel compounds, according to Iyer. Algae technologies developed by Primafuel's algae team have already been put to work by commercial nutraceutical producers, Iyer added.

The company's U.S. and European laboratories have developed multiple technology platforms focused on the separation, purification and conversion of saleable products from different types of biomass. The first of these technology platforms-SMAART Oil-was commercialized through its Basehor, Kan.-based subsidiary Primafuel Solutions in July 2008.

Amaizing Energy Holding Co. LLC, a 55 MMgy dry-mill corn-based plant in Denison, Iowa, was among the first ethanol companies to employ Primafuel's SMAART Oil corn oil extraction system in August 2008.

"This corn oil extraction expertise is a subset of the oil extraction technology that we are developing for algae," Iyer said. "We recognize this element of the process is extremely critical for efficient water removal and preservation of the high-value compounds present in certain strains of algae. Our approach is a departure from more conventional processes, which are highly invasive and energy intensive."
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