Two companies in Australia are conducting large-scale trials using algae to capture carbon dioxide and produce commercial products.

MBD Energy is trialling a technology developed by James Cook University to capture emissions from a coal-fired power station and pump them into water to grow algae. Because of the high concentration of CO2, the algae doubles in mass every one to two days.  The vast quantities of algae can be used to produce either bio-diesel fuel or cattle feed.

MBD’s trial is being comnducted at the Tarong power plant in south-east Queensland. The initial trial is being conducted in a one hectare site, which the company plans to expand to 80 hectares in 2012 with full operation commencing in 2013. The facility is expected to deliver abatement of more than 70,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum and produce about 10,000 tonnes of algae oil and 25,000 tonnes of algae meal per annum. These will be sold for use as animal and fish feed, fuel briquettes to replace fossil fuel, bio-fuel and plastic production.

MBD is using algae sourced from local streams so that any spillage into local waterways won’t affect the environment.

Aurora Algae’s demonstration facility at Karratha
Aurora Algae’s demonstration facility at Karratha

Aurora Algae, on the other hand, is using optimized strains of salt-water algae in their trial near Karratha in Western Australia. The American company believes that this is an ideal location for their algae farms, which need consistent warm temperatures, low rainfall and proximity to industrial sites as a source of CO2.

The company is developing four 50 square metre and four 400 square meter inoculation ponds. The inoculation ponds will produces enough algae culture to seed six 1-acre production ponds which will produce approximately 15 tonnes of algal-biomass per month. This will eventually be expanded to fifty 1-acre ponds, producing an estimated 600 tonnes of biomass per month, consuming 40 tonnes of CO2 emissions per day.

Aurora Algae expect their product to be used for pharmaceutical production as well as fish feed and bio-energy.