20 January 2014
Lucie Bell and Ebonnie Spriggs
An American company will decide by June where in regional Western Australia to develop its first commercial-scale algae operation.
Since 2011, Aurora Algae has been running a pilot research and development plant in Karratha, converting algae into biofuel, omega-three for the health food industry and protein for animal feed.
The company originally indicated plans to build a full-scale commercial operation at nearby Maitland, which was flagged to open this year.
The project was also granted $10 million in state government funding to go towards building a seawater pipeline for the site.
However, Aurora Algae’s Alex Mattana says the company is now looking at developing a smaller commercial plant in Geraldton first, due to lower infrastructure costs.
“We have micro-ponds, or what we call our small test ponds, in Geraldton and we need at least 12 months of information before we can make a decision,” he said.
“We have about six or seven months worth of information from that already, so we are waiting to finish those trials off before making a definitive decision.”
Mr Mattana says the company is currently investigating possible locations in Geraldton, however the Maitland site will not be ruled out for the future.
“The costs of the infrastructure at Maitland actually drive up the costs dramatically.
“So we are looking at Geraldton as an option to build, let’s call it the smaller first commercial scale, but Maitland remains our primary option for a much larger facility because of the proximity to CO2 and the availability of land and seawater intake.”
Mr Mattana says the Karratha research and development facility is being wound down and will likely be placed on the market soon.
Courtesy of ABC Rural