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Algae Cultivation, Harvesting Cost Figures from Algae World 2008 Conference

December 12th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Energy-Companies, Algae-Energy-Cost

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This article, which provided some useful data based on presentations at the Singapore Algae World 2008 Conference, was interesting mainly because it gives us some much needed real world data on costs for algae cultivation & harvesting, and also some trends

Key points:

1. Assuming oil is retailing at US$1 a litre, the production cost of algae has to fall to US$0.37 per kilogramme to encourage the use of the algae in biodiesel production, Syed Isa Syed Alwi of Malaysia’s Sasaran Biofuel said.
2. The unit cost of producing Dunaliella Salina in an open pond system is about AU$5 (US$3.14) for each kilogramme of dry biomass, Professor Michael A. Borowitzka of Murdoch University said citing statistics gathered from some of the pilot algae projects around the world. I guess he is talking about the cost of cultivation and harvesting. (I am not sure based on what he got the number, especially because he is talking about open ponds). Oh by the way, that figure still compares favorably against the average AU$8 (US$5.04) to AU$12 (US$7.56) per kilogramme for Spirulina and the unit costs of other algae strain projects Borowitzka presented at the conference. Thank you for letting me know that!
(Borowitzka is one of the researchers behind the design of Western Australia’s Hutt Lagoon, Dunaliella Salina open pond, the world’s largest microalgae production plant. The plant capitalises on the high salinity tolerance level of the Dunaliella salina species and its proximity to the coastline of Western Australia.)
3. Borowitzka is working with an Australian outfit Z Filter, to test a newly adapted filtration harvesting mechanism at the Hutt Lagoon facility over the next 12 months. The new mechanism may reduce the current harvesting cost by at least 80 per cent, he said. I’d like to keep my eyes and ears open to know any updates on this. This could prove crucial.
4. As another researcher presenting at the Algae World 2008 suggests, no one singular production system can deliver the same goods at the same costs across all conditions

Now, that’s a lot of inputs. $3.14 per Kg of algae biomass is depressing, though I doubt it is that high – I reckon it’d be closer to 2$ max for an open pond for biomass, that is before extraction and transesterification, but after harvesting.

I am again saying: harvesting appears to be a rather costly process for the microalgae stuff, I am still try to get a hang on cost estimates for this, but I am convinced that if exceptionally efficient harvesting methods are found, microalgae biomass production costs could be cut dramatically. Now that of course begs another question: Why microalgae and not macroalgae, if one could look at gasification / syngas / FT route? Search me!

Keeping all my fingers crossed

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