A revolutionary procedure to transform algae into biodiesel has been given a boost with the announcement today of $166,000 funding from the Queensland Government. The process, an Australian first, develops a sustainable green alternative to fossil fuels by producing biodiesel for transport and industry.
Premier Anna Bligh, in Townsville today for Community Cabinet, said the project was a partnership between James Cook University (JCU) and Australian company MBD Biodiesel Ltd. "Considering the current debate about agricultural land being used to produce biofuels, algae may well be a significant future alternative fuel source as we set about tackling climate change." Ms Bligh said. "While most other biodiesels come from agricultural crops like canola, soy and palm oil, algae can be grown with ease in ponds or tanks on poor quality land. The process, which is also being trialled in Europe and the United States, also produces a s a by-product 'algal cake' for animal feedstock which could help drought-proof our livestock industry. This sort of Smart State thinking is what will prepare Queensland for the future, it shows Government, business and universities working together tackling climate change."
Minister for Regional Development and Industry Desley Boyle said this offered an exciting alternative. "The new process will maintain carbon in the energy cycle and when placed beside a coal or gas fired power station the algae farm can consume 50% of the carbon dioxide in the exhaust gas." Ms Boyle said. "The process then produces algal oil which can easily be transformed into biodiesel and glycerine. The project is particularly exciting as it complemented the State Government's Townsville Centre of Enterprise tropical science initiative. This project uses Townsville's unique tropical conditions to its scientific and economic advantage. What is even more pleasing is that this project is a collaboration between private, public and education sectors - the sort of projects essential for the future prosperity of regional Queensland."
MBD Biodiesel Director Doctor Marc Stammbach said the Bligh Government funding provided from the Department of Tourism, Regional Development and Industry was a significant step towards setting up a Biodiesel plant and algae farm in Townsville. "The first stage will be the identification and development of suitable algae strains to achieve stable, continuous, high yield algae production. MBD will provide the algae photo-bioreactor which will be situated at JCU. MBD has strong support from the Townsville business community and is delighted to be able to move forward with the support of the Queensland Government and JCU. Next year we plan to build a 35,000 tonne algae pilot farm followed by a 400-hectare algae farm by 2010 which can ultimately consume in excess of 2,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and provide algae oil for a 250,000 tonne biodiesel plant."
Professor Rocky de Nys, Head of Aquaculture at JCU, will lead the first stage of the project in Townsville with Doctor Kirsten Heimann, Director of the university's North Queensland Algal Identification/Culturing Facility. "The environmental benefits of using algae to create biodiesel and feedstock are enormous." Professor de Nys said. "Algae require large volumes of carbon dioxide to grow, which means less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere so it will make sense in future to situate such farms near major industry and power stations. "Companies that do produce carbon dioxide will eventually be able to claim carbon credits as the carbon dioxide can be stored or captured and released into algae farms."
Ms Boyle said that the alternative fuels and technologies sector was consider ed a priority industry by the Queensland Government. "In our view the production of biodiesel complements ethanol as an alternative renewable fuel for Queensland so this is the kind of project we are keen to support." Ms Boyle said. "Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel for diesel engines. It's produced from renewable resources, is biodegradable, virtually non-toxic, and as a blended product can be used in most diesel engines without engine modification. The production of biodiesel from algae is an exciting new concept and I believe Queensland can grow to be a world-leader in it."