Researchers from The University of Western Australia and Murdoch University have for the first time identified a number of WA sites capable of producing large quantities of commercial biofuel from microalgae. The sites identified across Western Australia’s Mid West and Pilbara regions include stretches of land south of Geraldton, south-east of Exmouth and large areas near Karratha and Port Hedland.
Assistant Professor Bryan Boruff from UWA’s School of Earth and Environment used Geographical Information System (GIS) technology to study more than 2250km of WA coastline from Lancelin to Broome and 170km inland.
“Algal biofuels have the potential to play an important part of a clean energy future and commercial success depends on economically viable, large-scale production, which is why this study is so important,” Assistant Professor Boruff said.
The report, Identification of the Optimum Sites for Industrial-scale Microalgae Biofuel Production in WA using a GIS Model, assessed sites according to land suitability, access to infrastructure and workforce, carbon dioxide availability, along with nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and climate.
Professor Michael Borowitzka from Murdoch University’s Algae Research and Development Centre, a leading world authority on algal biofuel production, said WA had several key advantages for suitable sites: abundant sunshine, extensive land unsuitable for agriculture and plenty of water in the Indian Ocean.
Its fast growth rate and high oil content appears to make microalgae particularly well-suited to renewable biodiesel production and offers an attractive sustainable alternative source to other compounds such as carotenoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and polysaccharides.
Assistant Professor Boruff said more research and development was needed to find the most energy-efficient and economically feasible way to extract and convert algal biomass into renewable bioenergy.
WA already has the world’s biggest commercial microalgae production plant at Hutt Lagoon, north of Geraldton.
The report, Identification of the Optimum Sites for Industrial-scale Microalgae Biofuel Production in WA using a GIS Model, was prepared for the WA Government-funded Centre for Research into Energy for Sustainable Transport (CREST).
Source: University of Western Australia