Turning algae from carbon dioxide into fuel

Technology produced in Cumming turns algae into renewable energy



CUMMING, Ga. — Algae is nothing more than a plant. You need water, nutrients and carbon dioxide, and that’s basically what Algae Energy uses to grow its system.

Headquartered in Perth, Australia, in April the company opened a research and development and analysis facility in Cumming, 2460 Industrial Park Boulevard.

Tray McConchie, business manager for Algae Energy, said technology, laboratory testing and fabrication of the company’s modules are done in Cumming.

“We’re a renewable energy company,” McConchie said. “We offer a sustainable solution for renewable energy.”

Algae fuel has its advantages, McConchie said. While soy and corn farming can produce renewable biofuel, they are not a sustainable solution because they can raise food costs and in the long-term could turn out to be a pricier solution.

“We can double the size of algae mass every hour and a half,” McConchie said. “We can grow algae much faster.”

As with corn or soy, you dry it and crush it to create oil and biomass, he said.

But another use the company hopes to tap into is the “sequestering carbon dioxide” from CO2-producing power plants and cement manufacturers.

“We can sequester CO2 to grow our algae and it helps the overall process,” McConchie said. “The CO2 is not released into the atmosphere, it’s going into a renewable source.”

A lot of countries worldwide are facing taxation on the carbon dioxide pollution they emit, and many companies are looking to alternative companies like Algae Energy to help do something about it.

“If a company is facing millions of dollars of taxation, they will think of an alternative not to face excess taxation,” he said.

The algae system is known as a closed loop system. A 40-foot shipping container module can be sent anywhere in the world, equipped with power and plumbing.

Once algae is grown and harvested, it can be used to create oil. Another product is biomass, which can be used in burning, as in coal, and feedstock in cattle.

“Even the byproducts of the unit is a sustainable solution,” McConchie said.

The company has been growing as fast as its algae.

The company went public January 2011 in the Australian Stock Market and has recently been added to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. In the New York Stock Exchange, they are traded under Foreign Depositories.

“We’re being recognized by many companies around the world,” McConchie said. “I can’t really divulge too much information, but it’s worldwide.”

On the government sector, however, the company would like to do more.

The company’s first demonstration will take place at the Manildra plant in Nowra, Australia in March 2012. Manildra is the largest ethanol producer in Australia.

“Our technology so far has been ahead of the competition,” McConchie said. “It’s nice that we are in Cumming and doing exciting things.”

Randall Toussaint, vice president of economic development for the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said bringing the project to Cumming was a result of the Chamber’s growing relationship with the consul general and trade minister of Australia.

“It truly exemplifies the extent to which our area has emerged as a hub for innovative technology and international commerce,” Toussaint said.

Algae Energy is located 2460 Industrial Park Boulevard in Cumming. Call 678-679-7370 for more information.

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