Biodiesel Magazine has an article on Aurora Algae's plan to build an algae based products plant in Australia (with biodiesel seeming to be a low priority) - Aurora Algae unveils new business plan.
Aurora Algae Inc. is in the process of constructing a demonstration-scale facility in northwestern Australia, which is expected to be operational by the end of the year. Plans for an adjacent commercial-scale plant are also underway.
The company, formally known as Aurora Biofuels Inc., recently changed its name to reflect a new focus. According to Aurora CEO Greg Bafalis, the original focus of the business was on biofuels development, but with the name change Aurora has shifted its focus to algae production. “When I joined the company it was really apparent to me that the platform is algae—and what you can make from that algae,” he said. “So, we’ve transitioned into what I call higher value products, such as omega-3 EPA. Moving towards those higher-value products allows us, with our current yields and current cost structure, to actually go out and build a commercial facility in a profitable manner.”
While Aurora plans to initially focus on the production of high-value algae-based products, the company hasn’t abandoned the idea of biofuels production. “We haven’t completely dropped biodiesel production,” Bafalis said. “I would say instead of being the primary product, it’s more of a byproduct in our process.” Ramping up and optimizing a new technology is always an expensive and time consuming process, he continued. “By going towards higher-value products, it gives us the time to go out on a very large commercial scale and prove out our system, grow our algae, and find the optimizations we need to get the costs in line to produce a product like biodiesel,” Bafalis said. “We think the evolution will be there, and down the line—whether its five years or 10 years—maybe the costs will come into line, and at that point we’ll not only to serve the attractive markets that we are going after in nutriceuticals, but also evolve back into the fuel markets.”
Work on Aurora’s demonstration-scale facility is nearly complete. “Over the past 10 months, we have been developing and constructing a demonstration facility in northwestern Australia,” Bafalis said. “We currently have 38 micro-ponds, which are basically two square-meter ponds. We’ve been growing algae in those ponds for the past few months and gathering a lot of very important data. We are also in the middle of constructing six one-acre raceway ponds, which will come into operation at the end of the year.”