U.S. algae expert to advise Australian project

By Susanne Retka Schill | January 15, 2009
Web exclusive posted Jan. 22, 2009, at 4:18 p.m. CST

A South Australia consortium recently appointed John Benemann, manager of the International Network on Biofixation of Carbon Dioxide and Greenhouse Gas Abatement with Microalgae, as a special advisor to help it develop algae for biodiesel production. Benemann gave a one-day seminar Jan. 21 at the South Australian Research and Development Institute, describing the current state of algae development.

Scientists in South Australia are planning a proof-of-concept facility to explore the viable production of algae for biodiesel and high-value coproducts for nutraceuticals, feed, industrial and consumer applications. The project will include a facility on Torrens Island using four-50 square meter raceway ponds using nutrient rich salt water from an estuary, carbon dioxide from adjacent power plants and solar energy. The scientists will be developing an elite algal strain for biodiesel production, tapping into SARDI's collection of native strains showing high oil production potential, while working on cost effective systems for growing algae and harvesting the oil.

The project received a $1.2 million Premier's Science and Research Fund grant in late December. The funds have been matched by resource recovery company Sancon Resources Recover Inc., the South Australian Research and Development Institute, and Flinders University. The project, which has been driven by SARDI professor Rob Thomas, will be led by Sasi Nayer from SARDI and Wei Zhang from Flinders. Benemann is serving as an advisor to the consortium.

Prior to working as a consultant, Benemann worked on microalgae for wastewater treatment, biofuels and fertilizer production at the University of California Berkeley in the Sanitary Engineering Research Laboratory. Benemann was lead author of the final report on the decade-long U.S. DOE research on aquatic species.
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