Algae photobioreactor manufacturing facility opens in Atlanta

By Luke Geiver | April 05, 2011

Atlanta is the new home for an Australian-based algae developer’s photobioreactor manufacturing facility. The 18,000 square foot plant will fabricate Algae.Tec’s algae production system that is based on readily available technology, according to Peter Hatfull, managing director for the company. Hatfull spoke with Biodiesel Magazine about the new plant and the company’s establishment of a level-one American Depository Receipt Program that will allow Americans to buy stock in the company during his North American tour.

The plant’s location was chosen mainly by Earl McConchie, executive director and creator of the algae system. “It’s a relatively normal industrial looking site,” Hatfull said.  “We are still careful to control our costs.” And although the warehouse setting Hatfull describes seems overly ordinary, the main component used in the algae system might display the company’s effort to maintain costs and operate using readily available technology. “The nice thing about the technology is that we are using a relatively standard 40-foot shipping container, which is available just about anywhere.”

Over the course of roughly four months a staff of eight full-time fabricators and a handful of contracted workers will put together the pieces of the algae module. Hatfull said that the first four modules were purchased in the U.S. after the team shopped around, and once the team begins to produce the modules in larger quantities, the process will have evolved, not taking as long. The Algae.Tec platform is based around a controlled environment within the shipping container that maximizes surface area and sunlight penetration, allowing the algae to grow. The systems are suited for carbon capture and algae oil production, the company said.

Hatfull explained that all of the cost estimates have been for a 500-module system, which he says is a relatively small plant. “If we look at a 500-module plant, the capital cost for putting that together, everything from light collectors, CO2 collectors and engineering costs, is about $64 million.” If, however, you break that down, he said each module is about $125,000.

Hatfull wasn’t only in the U.S. to announce the opening of the Atlanta facility. He planned to meet with the Bank of New York Mellon to finalize the ADR. While the company has tried to remain under the radar, according the Hatfull, the amount of interest in Algae.Tec has risen so much that it decided to offer stock in the company in the U.S., along with the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the Australian Stock Exchange.

“There is a tremendous amount of cash being spent on algae industries around the world,” he said, adding, “what other project is going to make a lot of money and help clean up the environment.” Instead of seeking out venture capitalist funding, the company instead chose to take a more public route, but Hatfull notes that the company is receiving attention from green funds and other investors now.

The Atlanta facility will grow significantly over the next two years, he said, and the first batch on containers will be sent to Perth, Australia, the future home of a commercial site for Algae.Tec’s algae system. 

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