Back in the Algae Game

By Anna Simet | August 03, 2012

Yesterday, an Australian company announced it had opened an algae-to-biofuel plant in New South Wales. It’s been a very long time since I’ve written anything about algae, so I had never even heard of the company, Algae.Tec.

What about you algae geeks?  By no means am I questioning Algae.Tec’s legitimacy, but in this industry you learn to approach every big claim with a certain degree of caution, especially when you live on the other side of the world and can’t witness these milestones firsthand.

Algae.Tec describes their technology, which is called the McConchie-Stroud System, as a high-yield, enclosed algae growth and harvesting system that’s designed to grow non-GMO algae on an industrial scale. That brought me back to an article I wrote a couple of years ago, titled “Open Ponds Versus Closed Bioreactors.” I’m sure there have been many industry advances since then, but the article explored the pros and cons associated with the economic commercial production of algae using closed bioreactors and open ponds. I talked with several companies working on a range of different algae growth methods, as well as an expert at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and they all had varying opinions.

What I remember being told about closed bioreactor technologies is that they are typically cost prohibitive, unless you’re able to make a fuel that’s worth a lot of money and can balance out the cost, or develop a strain of algae that is extremely productive. Of course, open ponds are associated with their own problems, such as susceptibility to viruses, weeds and parasites.

I guess I’m wondering is, which method do you think will prevail and why? Or is it already happening?

I’m confident I’ll be able to make that determination at the Algae Biomass Organization’s Algae Biomass Summit, being held in Denver, Colo., Sept 24-27. There, I expect to gain a precise and in-depth account of what’s going on in the algae industry, and the direction it’s headed.  I encourage you to take a look at wonderfully monstrous agenda, and consider attending.

If you’re planning on going, track me down and say hello. You can access the agenda here.