RENEWABLE fuels company Muradel has launched Australia’s first integrated demonstration plant to sustainably convert algae into green crude, as a first step towards a commercial plant with the potential to produce 80 million litres of crude oil a year.
The $10.7 million demonstration plant at Whyalla in the northwest of South Australia will produce 30,000 litres of green crude a year using the company’s trademarked technology called Green2Black™.
Muradel CEO and University of Adelaide Associate Professor David Lewis said if the demonstration plant was successfully scaled to a commercial plant, it would produce 500,000 barrels of refinable green crude a year by 2019 – providing enough petrol and diesel to fuel 30,000 vehicles for a year.
“This is world-leading technology which can be scaled up exponentially to help steer our fossil fuel-dependent economy to a more sustainable future,” Dr Lewis said.
Using microalgae produced on site, plant biomass and organic waste, Muradel’s energy-efficient subcritical water reactor converts them in minutes to a crude oil that is functionally equivalent to fossil crude.
The green crude is then refined in the same way as crude oil into petrol, diesel and aviation fuels.
The microalgae is sustainably grown in seawater ponds and is a resilient strain that has proven productive all year in Australia’s sunny conditions.
Muradel expects production costs would be on par with the cost of producing fossil fuels for transport.
“The algae ponds will also act as carbon sinks that can capture greenhouse gas emissions produced by Whyalla’s heavy industry,” Dr Lewis said.
The demonstration plant was partially funded through a $4.4 million grant from Australian Renewable Energy Agency. Additional in-kind and financial support came from the Whyalla City Council, the South Australian Government through BioSA, and Muradel’s shareholders.