The Road to Commercialization

With the McConchie-Stroud technology platform and a host of deals in the works, Algae.Tec is helping develop algae’s future
By Amy Richardson | March 19, 2012

Algae.Tec Ltd. was founded in 2007 in Perth, Australia, by former Dow Chemical executive Earl McConchie and biofuels and investment specialist Roger Stroud. After conducting extensive laboratory, bench and pilot tests and product scales, the entrepreneurs perfected the core technology, aptly named the McConchie-Stroud System, to deliver high-yield, enclosed and economically competitive algae to produce transport biofuels. R&D into algae species continued at the company’s U.S. headquarters, the Algae Research, Development & Manufacturing Centre in Atlanta, originally an 18,200-square-foot fabrication facility that has now expanded to 70,000 square feet. The McConchie-Stroud System is ready for full-scale demonstration as part of the road to commercialization.

The McConchie-Stroud System uses enclosed steel photobioreactors (40-foot shipping containers) that are linked to solar light capture arrays and a carbon dioxide source (a power station or commercial emitter of carbon dioxide). The system provides the ideal algae growing conditions producing biomass and algal oil at prices below crude oil. The algae product is used for the production of green jet fuel and biodiesel.

Importantly, the McConchie-Stroud System does not use human food crop sources as feedstock, and it has a smaller footprint, just 10 percent or less, than the pond methods. The enclosed system enables complete control of the environment, maximizing growing conditions while removing external factors such as wild species, storm and tempest, and evaporation.

The Algae.Tec board of directors comprises a leading team from biofuels research, industry and financial sectors. Peter Hatfull, the managing director and company secretary, has an extensive skill set in the areas of business optimization, capital raising and company restructuring, and brings valuable accounting and business expertise to the company. Roger Stroud, executive chairman, has more than 35 years of experience in business management, and recently moved into building businesses in the renewable fuel sector, primarily in biodiesel. Garnet Earl McConchie, executive director, has more than 35 years of experience over a broad field of chemical engineering and associated technologies, including global markets, bulk chemicals and plastics, differentiated commodities and intermediates, specialty chemicals, polymers and interaction with environmental sectors. Timothy Morrison, the nonexecutive director, helps extend existing research relationships, and to develop new links with business and industry. His history with Murdoch University in commercial and research roles brings insight to the team. This highly skilled team serves as a strong foundation for Algae.Tec.

In 2011, the company listed on the Australian and Frankfurt stock exchanges, and launched an American Depository Receipts program in the U.S. Last June, Algae.Tec signed a collaboration contract with the Manildra Group for the construction of its Australian demonstration facility at Nowra, south of Sydney, Australia. Known as Shoalhaven One, the facility is set up so Algae.Tec’s photoreactors sit next to the main facility, taking a carbon dioxide feed from the main ethanol fermenters. The start up of this facility was expected to be late March. 

Algae.Tec’s success over the past 14 months has attracted considerable interest in the fast-growing biofuels sector and investor circles. It finished 2011 as the top IPO performer on the ASX, and has signed deals and collaborations with some of the world’s leading companies in Asia, Europe and the U.S., and has secured $11 million in additional capital (post-IPO).

In December, Algae.Tec signed a collaboration contract to initiate its first algae biofuels production facility in Asia with the Sri Lanka arm of global cement giant Holcim. The staged facility is expected to be fully operational within the next 24 months. “The Algae.Tec facility is designed to reduce the cement manufacturing carbon dioxide emissions with an offtake into the algae growth system,” said Holcim Lanka CEO Stefan Huber. “We look forward to working with Algae.Tec on this exciting development that is aligned with our focus on sustainability and a commitment to the environment. Algae.Tec has a truly innovative technology backed by an expert international engineering team.”

Following this, in the same month, Algae.Tec and the major European airline Lufthansa signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly evaluate the potential for algae oil to be developed into a sustainable source of green jet fuel.

In January, Algae.Tec signed a binding MOU for a 50/50 equity joint venture (JV) in China with Chinese company the Shandong Kerui Group Holding Ltd. Under this JV, a 250-module algae biofuels facility will be built, the first of its size and type in the world. The Kerui Group, based in Shandong Province, the second largest oil province in China, has extensive business interests in the People’s Republic of China, primarily in the manufacturing of oilfield and petroleum industry equipment, and power generation and building facilities. The group has offices in 18 countries outside China. According to the Kerui Group, China has targeted pollution and carbon as part of its current five-year plan from 2011 to 2015, so the Algae.Tec carbon-capture solution is expected to be well-received by carbon-emitting companies and the government. Algae.Tec executive chairman Stroud said, “The Algae.Tec technology will reduce unwanted emissions and will convert them into locally produced transport fuels, which will add to fuel independence.” This deal positions Algae.Tec for expansion in the fastest growing economy in the world.

Meanwhile, Algae.Tec had been briefing investor groups in the U.S., Asia and Europe and secured working capital of $6.42 million from an investor group in the U.S., then worked with Australia-based Paterson’s Securities in a successful placement that raised $5.35 million. The capital will be used to fast-track commercial projects. Stroud said the successful capital raising demonstrates that sophisticated investors are aligned with the need for alternative transport fuel technologies like Algae.Tec’s. Biofuels, particularly from nonfood crop sources such as algae, are attracting investor interest around the globe. Algae.Tec is continuing its collaboration and JV strategy with the aim of rolling out biofuels production facilities around the globe.

Author: Amy Richardson
Account Executive, DMG Media Marketing
+61 2 8006 0424