GPRE forms joint venture for algae project

By Erin Voegele | November 03, 2008
Web exclusive posted Nov. 24, 2008 at 10:05 a.m. CST

BioProcess Algae LLC, a joint venture formed by Nebraska-based Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc., Tennessee-based filtration products manufacturer Clarcor Inc., Rhode Island-based photobioreactor and filtration system developer BioProcessH20 LLC and Ireland-based NTR PLC, was announced Nov. 18. GPRE committed $1.4 million in initial funding and with 25.5 percent interest in BioProcess Algae, it is the largest shareholder.

BioProcess Algae plans to build a pilot-scale facility at GPRE's ethanol plant in Shenandoah, Iowa. The plant will use advanced photobioreactor technology that is based on technology licensed to the company by BioProcessH20. The facility will be sustained by recycled heat, water and carbon dioxide from the ethanol plant.

According to Scott Poor, GPRE's corporate counsel and director of investor relations, the date that construction will be begin is not available. "There are technical and engineering considerations in determining the timeframe," he said. However, the company plans to move forward as quickly as possible.

The exact scale and scope of the pilot project has yet to be determined, said Poor. ""We are going to build a project that is sufficiently sized to test the equipment in order to pursue commercial development," he said. "The systems will be modular, so scaling it up or down should be relatively easy."

Poor said the algae produced at the plant could be used as a feedstock for biodiesel or ethanol. There is potential for other uses as well, such as livestock feed. "However, algae is also a very important carbon sequestration agent, and so an important component of the business model is carbon capture," Poor said.

In April, GPRE received preliminary approval for a $2.3 million grant from the Iowa Power Fund to finance research and development in algae production. GPRE intends to revise the grant proposal to reflect the formation of BioProcess Algae.