Australian-first project at Tarong Power Station uses algae to absorb carbon emissions

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An Australian-first project to reduce carbon emissions is being implemented at Tarong Power Station using algae to absorb carbon emissions.

The Queensland Government had committed $1 million to Phase 1 of the project, which is underway at the South Burnett power station following successful trials of the new technology at a purpose-built pilot facility at James Cook University in Townsville.

It uses algae to soak up the carbon dioxide emissions from the coal-fired power station, and has the potential to enable a wide range of large emitters to reduce the amount of carbon they release into the atmosphere.

Under a process called Algal Synthesis, captured flue gases from the coal-fired power station are injected into waste water contained in long plastic membranes next to the station.

Algae then grow rapidly in the water, with the captured gases providing carbon dioxide and other nutrients, doubling in quantity every one to two days.

The algae biomass is then used to make bio fuels which can be used to create valuable products such as livestock feed or oils for transport fuels.

When fully operational, it is anticipated that per hectare per annum, the project will capture up to 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 170 cars off the road for a year.

It is also expected to produce one tonne of algal biomass per day, 120 tonnes per annum of algal oil and 240 tonnes per annum of algal meal.

The first stage of the one-hectare Tarong Power Station facility is complete, with earthworks finalised, most services connected and vertical growth columns for the algae installed. The project is scheduled to be fully commissioned in 2012.

The project was a joint initiative between MBD Energy and Queensland Government-owned Stanwell Corporation, the state’s largest power generator.

This process developed by MBD Energy and its R&D team at James Cook University has the capacity to recycle waste water.

MBD Energy expects to use the Tarong Power Station display plant as a blueprint for one or more potentially much larger projects that seek to recycle waste flue gases into algae biomass on a commercial scale.

In order to protect local biodiversity, only strains of micro-algae local to Tarong Power Station have been selected for growing.

[Image courtesy MBD Energy.]