BARD prepares to take algae production to new heights

By Erin Voegele | March 23, 2011

Morrisville, Penn.-based BARD Holdings Inc. recently announced its shift from research and development to the commercialization phase of its algae production technology. According to Avery Hong, BARD’s chief global strategist, the company has completed the first phase of its production rollout. Its initial facility, located in Morrisville, is expected to produce approximately 40,000 gallons of algae oil per year.

“We are a photobioreactor-based company,” Hong said. “We’re using photobioreactor tubes and we’re using an artificial light source as the light energy.” When compared to raceway pond algae production, Hong said BARD’s indoor, photobioreactor technology offers several benefits. The system is able to operate 24-7, he said, as it is fueled by an artificial light source. The closed-loop system also mitigates problems associated with contamination and culture crashes. In fact, Hong notes that BARD has yet to experience a culture crash, and expects that track record to continue. In addition, the system is scalable and modular, and units can be brought online with a relatively short lead time, partly because the photobioreactor equipment can be installed in existing industrial spaces such as unutilized warehouses.

According to Hong, his company has ambitious expansion goals. “Our production schedule is to get significant [capacity] up and running in 2011,” he said. “BARD’s expansion schedule is not a mid-decade [timeframe].” Rather, plans are already underway to bring capacity online as soon as possible.  By late summer, BARD has plans to be operating a second production facility, which will feature 280,000 to 300,000 additional gallons of algae oil production.

The third phase of development will include a significantly larger facility the company is working to develop at the Keystone Industrial Port Complex. “It’s an ideal site from a co-location standpoint,” Hong said, noting it is adjacent to a power plant, a wastewater treatment facility, and rail and port transportation. Construction is expected to begin in May, and be complete early next year. The facility will be able to produce between 13 and 15 million gallons of algae oil per year,” Hong said.

A fourth facility is under development in North Carolina. “We’re very deep into the financing and site selection [for that project],” Hong said. Details will be released once agreements are finalized, he continued.

In addition to working to bring commercial-scale operations online, BARD is also positioning itself to supply industry and members of the public with third-party verification of its process. “We’ve engaged four parties and three labs to validate the process,” Hong said, noting the validation data will be shared with the industry. “We won’t give away the secret sauce about how we did it, but we will share the production data, we’ll share our cap-ex number, our op-ex numbers, and what our outputs are,” he said. Results of the verification activities are scheduled to be released by May.

According to Hong, BARD is targeting several markets for its algae products, including the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and biofuel markets. The company’s business plan currently revolves around a build-own-operate model. However, Hong notes the company will soon decide whether it will also consider licensing its technology to third-parties.

For the time being, Shar Olivier, BARD’s chief sustainability officer, said that her company will likely not move into vertically integrated operations. Rather, she said BARD is open to cleantech clustering and co-location with partners who will use algae oil as a manufacturing feedstock. “Most likely we’d just like to deploy our capital to additional algae facilities,” she said. 


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