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Process

Muradel refocuses Whyalla biofuel venture

April 25, 2016
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

Professor David Lewis next to the reactor set up at Muradel’s Whyalla plant. Photo: Campbell Brodie

Professor David Lewis next to the reactor set up at Muradel’s Whyalla plant. Photo: Campbell Brodie

Valerina Changarathil writes in Adelaide Now that the Whyalla, Australia-based commercial biofuel producer Muradel will receive a new federal grant next month to start scaling up its demonstration plant as it refocuses on new feedstock.

Muradel did not disclose the grant amount while still being finalized, but it comes weeks after a separate $500,000 grant from the State Government to support diversification of its ongoing research.

Chief executive Professor David Lewis said the company has been focused on demonstrating it can produce biocrude oil from microalgae since 2011, first in Western Australia and since 2013 in South Australia. But its proprietary Green2Black technology would now be demonstrated using car tires and biosolids from municipal waste streams as feedstock. “Our development journey has ended, this is now demonstrating the economic viability of our technology,” Professor Lewis said.

Muradel’s Karratha pilot plant was producing oil from micro-algae at about $9.90 a liter and the aim at Whyalla was to reduce this to less than $1 a litre, which has not yet happened. “We realised new feedstocks that are easily available can give us a better economic outcome with the focus now being on tires, biosolids and algae in that order.”

Muradel is a joint venture between the University of Adelaide, Murdoch University and SQC. It spent $10.5 million on its Whyalla plant, supported by a $4.5 million grant from the Federal Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency, with some funding from the State Government’s BioSA agency and through the Whyalla council. It currently occupies close to 4 hectares of land leased from the Whyalla council, but has access to 200 hectares adjoining the existing site.

Three more algae ponds are being built on site to add to the existing two to support research with an unnamed Japanese cosmetics giant who wants to replace the unpopular palm oil with oil from the algae. This work has been going on since 2012 with the Japanese company due to decide on a commercial investment in Muradel in 2017. Professor Lewis said the group had “invested millions” already.

While that prospect is taking shape, Muradel is focusing on its purpose for existence — producing 500,000 barrels of refinable green crude per year potentially by 2018.

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