27/06/2012 - 10:23

$300m investment for Karratha algae project

27/06/2012 - 10:23

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$300m investment for Karratha algae project

THE owners of an algae production facility in Karratha have announced plans to invest nearly $300 million to expand its Pilbara operation. 

US-based Aurora Algae, funded by private equity investors, announced this week it would build a 400-hectare full-scale commercial facility, starting with an initial 100ha facility.

The company plans to employ 275 people for the project, with 91 workers to be recruited for the initial project and the remaining 183 to assist in the project’s second phase.

Aurora Algae founder and managing director Matthew Caspari told WA Business News capital costs of the 400ha facility would be $300 million.

“The first phase of the project is going to be 100ha of algae growth ponds and that project will cost about $100 million; we start construction of that in the middle of 2013, and then operations would start one year later,” Mr Caspari said.

“That is the first phase of a larger project, the total project will be 400ha of algae growth ponds with a total construction cost of $300 million for both the phases.”

Mr Caspari said the company had not yet awarded engineering and construction contracts for the project but that it was in talks with engineering companies over the design of the facility.

The company has previously announced the appointment of MWH and John Holland to finalise planning for the project.

Mr Caspari said the decision to expand the project was based on the success of the company’s demonstration facility near Karratha, which had cost $40 million to build and operate.

“We have had very good technical results operating the facility over the last year or so up in Karratha and that is why we are looking at the bigger build-out,” he said.

The company will also create a purpose-built residential village for its workers.

Aurora’s business strategy for the algae focuses on three markets, the first being biodiesel, which the company plans to sell to mining companies in the Pilbara.

It also includes the production of omega 3 fatty acids for use in the global food and drug industries.

The third product will be a protein-rich biomass, which can be used as a feedstock in the aquaculture and livestock industries.

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