Government of Western Australia Official Site


Pilot biofuels plant in Karratha

United States-based company Aurora Algae is a step closer to producing a range of algae-based products on a commercial scale, with the opening of a demonstration facility in Karratha. The pilot plant houses numerous ponds of algae that are harvested and turned into biofuel, omega-three, and protein.

The purpose of the pilot plant is to grow algae on a small scale and achieve productivity that justifies building a larger facility. The 8ha demonstration site, built with up to $2 million in government grants, has six half-hectare production ponds already producing more than 15 tonnes a month of algal biomass.

The Chief Executive of Aurora Greg Bafalis says the company looked all over the world for somewhere with the right conditions to grow algae and it happens to be Karratha. “You need sunlight, you need seawater, you need temperatures that are relatively warm all year round and the most optimal place on the planet that we found was WA; particularly Karratha,” he said.

When Aurora reaches full commercial capacity, with several thousand ponds on a 607ha site 20km down the road, it will be 10 times bigger than any other operation in the world. “We produce roughly 30 tonnes a year out of each acre of algae – so you go could grow up to 10 tonnes of fuel a year out of each acre,” Mr Bafalis said. “We’re actively working on the permitting now, our plan is to hopefully have the permits in place early next year and be in a position to start construction and have it in operation in 2013.”

Ultimately, the company wants to produce biofuel capable of powering part of the Pilbara’s huge energy demands.