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Heard it Through the Grapevine: Useful Facts and Scuttlebutt from the Algae Biomass Summit

Submitted by on September 27, 2012 – 11:34 amNo Comment

by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest)  Jobs, global expansion, proteins vs fuels, new R&D funding – all the big issues are under debate both on and off the floor at the Algae Biomass Summit.

Jobs   Dr. John Benemann projected on stage that, today, the global algae industry directly employs 10,000 people in research, development, and deployment. South Korea’s C.G. Lee noted that the two largest projects in Korea are now employing 260 people between them, and estimated that Korean algae employment has reached 500. Muradel exec David Lewis estimated that Australia is also now employing 500 people full-time in algae research, development and deployment – noting that every one of Australia’s 39 universities now has at least one researcher working in the field.

Algenol CEO Paul Woods noted that the average salary at Algenol’s main facility in Florida is now $93,000, compared to an average household income for Lee County, FL as a whole of less than 50,000.

Sapphire Energy CEO Cynthia Warner noted that, in creating 6000 equivalent full-time jobs in the construction of their demonstration facility in Columbus, New Mexico, that 57 percent of Columbus’ population had been living below the US poverty line prior to Sapphire’s arrival. A factor in Columbus’ struggle. Saltwater intrusion into groundwater had had a devastating effect on the local agricultural industry. (Sapphire utilizes brackish water for its open-pond algae).

In her own remarks to the Summit, Sarah Bittleman, Senior Advisor to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, noted enthusiasm for the algae industry’s potential to be a source of jobs in rural areas, since those locations will be ideal for algae production facilities and infrastructure.

Global Expansion … Vitor Vieira, the chief development officer at Algafuel, itself a spin-out from Necton, gave a lightning-fast overview of a relatively startling level of expansion in Europe.

Among companies to watch, he highlighted Microohyt and Fermentalg; a 1-hectare Roquette klotze pilot utilizing chlorella; Archimede richerche; a 1-hectare pilot project from Boots, the UK-based retailer, in partnership with pml photobioreactor; a 5-acre project in Cadiz, Spain by Aurantia; France’s Activ’alg; a 600 square meter pilot from Novagreen in Germany; a small 85 m3 pilot by Algosource technologies.

He also noted that Eni has a 1 hectare project underway in Italy, Ecoduna is developing in Austria,
Phytolutions in Germany, and Algaenergy, Fitoplancton, EEM/BFS are active in Spain. In Belgium, he highlighted a 500 m2 pilot from Proviron, while noting that Ingrepro is making progress in the Netherlands.

The development of algae R&D clusters is well underway in the EU, as well. Vieira highlighted Algae clusters such as Biofat, All-gas, Intesusal, Giavap, Aquafuels, Algae parc, En algae, BBSRC, Biomara, Shamash and Algohub, as well as a cluster building up at the UK’s Cranfield University  READ MORE and MORE (Ethanol Producer Magazine)

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