Australian algae project features unique pond system

By Erin Voegele | December 07, 2011

A new algae project is underway in Australia. Algarythm Pty. Ltd., the operating company of Darke Peak Algae Biofuel Commercialization project, and Fishace Pty Ltd., trading as Fishace Ecological Engineering, recently announced the development of a new method to produce algae on a commercial scale.

According to information released by the companies, a pilot plant featuring the process is under development with the project’s academic partner, the Materials and BioEnergy Group of Flinders University, Adelaide. Fishace noted that the project will be constructed on a 2.4-hectare (5.9-acre) site it owns in Darke Peak regional township adjacent to a rail line and grain silos.

In a press release announcing the project, the companies state that the pilot demonstration project will be capable of producing an estimated 165 metric tons of algae biomass per year. The oil portion of that biomass is estimated to be sufficient feedstock to produce 100,000 liters (26,417 gallons) of biodiesel.

According to the companies, the pilot project will features low cost, simple, earth-based pond systems along with red LED algae photobioreactors, which will be used to increase algae densities. The site will also feature oloid pond mixing nanotechnology and biofuel processing systems. An oloid is a geometric object the shape of two interesting disks with equal radiuses that meet at a right angle.  The pilot project will use local grain waste as a nutrient for algae growth and feature local saline algae species found on biologically degraded land and saline groundwater.

The unique pond design for the project uses a series of clay-lined ponds that are connected by pipes in a gravity-fed water circulative series. Native food fish will be stocked in one of the ponds, where their waste will act as a nutrient to support algae growth. A chart published by Fishace elaborates on the five ponds that make up the system. The initial pond in the system is filled using saline groundwater sourced by a solar pump. The algae culture flows into a second pond where fish products are added before flowing into a third pond, where silo waste liquor is added as a nutrient. The culture then enters the photobioreactor system before entering a fourth pond. The fifth pond, which is covered, completes the system.