Algae production to be co-located with Brazilian ethanol plant

By Holly Jessen | July 30, 2012

By fall, Vienna, Austria-based See Algae Technology GmbH expects to begin construction on a one hectare dual-use algae production plant co-located with a sugarcane ethanol plant in Recife, Brazil. Pending regulatory approval, the ethanol production company can use it to produce biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel, as well as other products. “We expect to start to start actual construction work once we have received all the local approvals, probably September, end of September,” said Joachim Grill, CEO of See Algae. “The latest time schedule I got from the construction people says that the operational start-up should be September 2013.”

JB Group, which owns and operates two sugarcane ethanol plants in northeastern Brazil, announced mid-June a $9.5 million agreement that See Algae would supply and install the algae production plant, which can be used to produce several different products, depending on the wishes of the operator. Algae biomass produced can be used as a feed replacement for soybean meal for livestock and fish. Algae lipids produced from natural sources can be used to produce biodiesel, biochemicals and other compounds while genetically modified algae strains can be used to produce ethanol, Grill said. The feedstock for the algae production facility is CO2 coming from the ethanol production plant and the plant’s cogeneration facility.

Currently, See Algae is working through a regulatory snag that would prevent ethanol production from engineered algae. “In order to officially talk about ethanol production in Brazil, we need to receive approval from the Brazilian Agricultural Ministry that we can import such organisms into Brazil,” he said.

Ultimately, the plan is for the ethanol plant to have the ability to shift most of its sugarcane processing plant into sugar production and produce ethanol through the algae production unit. “It’s much more profitable that way,” he said. “The algae farm [could produce] much more ethanol than they can ever get out of sugarcane.”

In addition, JB Group and See Algae have a joint venture to market the algae production technology in Brazil. Algas Do Brasil will be 63 percent owned by See Algae and 37 percent owned by JB Group. 

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