BioProcess Algae: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

5-Minute-Guide-logoBPA designs, builds, and operates commercial scale Grower Harvester bioreactors that enable efficient conversion of light and CO2 into high value microbial feedstock. BioProcess Algae LLC is based in Omaha, Neb. and is currently running a demonstration plant at the Green Plains Inc. ethanol plant in Shenandoah, Iowa. Grower Harvester bioreactors installed in Shenandoah are tied directly into the plant’s CO2 exhaust gas and have been operating continuously since inoculation in October 2009.

The company serves five markets: Animal Feed, Nutraceuticals, Fish Feed, Chemicals and Fuel.

Rankings:

30 Hottest Companies in Biobased Chemicals & Materials: #30, 2014/15
40 Hottest Small Companies in the Advanced Bioeconomy: #21, 2014/15

Processing technology

Low cost biofilm-based bioreactors for efficient conversion of CO2 and light into biomass and extracted oils for a variety of markets. The technology at the heart of BioProcess Algae cultivators is a unique high surface area, biofilm-based approach to enhance light penetration, productivity, harvest density and gas transfer – all traditional bottlenecks to low-cost algae cultivation. The Grower Harvester technology is a flexible platform that allows for economical production of biomass and secreted metabolites.

Operations in Maine include the Biology Group including strain selection, strain improvement and culture scale-up.  Our personnel in Maine will work with downstream partners to identify robust strains with desirable product profiles, After optimizing selected strains for large-scale culture stability, the Maine group will scale up seed cultures for production in Iowa.

The Iowa operation is the primary commercial demonstration effort — operations include inoculums scale-up, commercial-scale reactors, automated process control and full dewatering infrastructure. Reactors re-use CO2 emissions and waste heat from the ethanol plant to increase productivity and reduce operating costs.

The Situation

Right now the company has completed its “Phase III” system that broke ground in February 2012 and is operating as a small commercial facility — but we haven’t seen firm dates and plans for the very large installments that the technology is capable of and to which the parent companies ultimately aspire. So, we’re in wait-and-see mode. If you know much about Green Plains, they’re not, shall we say, a “science project” company, so you can count on the technology not getting scaled until the partners are confident that the fundamental economics have been optimized. We’ve never actually seen Green Plains staff picking up nickels in parking lots, but if there’s a nickel in a bottle of CO2 or hiding underneath a biofilm, they’re going to find it.

Long-time CEO Tim Burns gave up the day-to-day oversight of the company, taking a board seat role — and the company is now essentially managed out of Omaha, Nebraska where Green Plains is headquartered.

Major Investors

BioProcess Algae LLC is a joint venture between Clarcor (NYSE: CLC), BioHoldings, Ltd. and Green Plains Inc. (NASDQ: GPRE).

Top Past Milestones

In August 2013, BPA said it was scaling up up its CO2-based algae experiment into a commercial-scale add-on facility. “What started out as a lab test that grew and grew until it reached 400 ft-long greenhouses has led to Omega-3 production as well as high value pellets and feed selling from $1,500 to $10,000 a ton, compared to $200 a ton for corn,” we wrote in 2013.

In April 2013, the company was selected to receive a grant of up to $6.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as part of an innovative pilot-scale biorefinery project related to production of hydrocarbon fuels meeting military specification. The project will use renewable carbon dioxide, lignocellulosic sugars and waste heat.

Completion of Phase III project co-located with Green Plains in Shenandoah, Iowa that broke ground on in February 2012. Commercial operation planned for end of this year.

In June 2012, a commercial supply agreement for EPA-rich Omega-3 oils with KD-Pharma for use in concentrated EPA products for nutritional and/or pharmaceutical applications.

In April 2011, groundbreaking on Five Acre Production Facility (Phase III) at Green Plains in Shenandoah, Iowa following the unveiling of commercial scale bioreactors (Phase II).

3. Successful algae-based poultry feed trails complete. Algae strains produced for feed trials demonstrated high energy and protein content that were readily available, similar to other high value feed products used in the feeding of poultry today.

Future Milestone Goals 

Continue construction of 200 acres of bioreactor system in Shenandoah, Iowa.

Continue roll-out of production platform co-located with teaming Green Plains owned ethanol facilities, finalize design of first co-located bioreactor system in generation industry.

Business Model

Owner-operator potentially followed by technology licensing, royalties and operational support to accelerate co-location roll-out.

Competitive Edge

• Low Cost

• Scalable

• Co-location advantaged with all CO2 emitters

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances.

BioProcess Algae’s current joint venture partners provide strategic access to ethanol plants, existing infrastructure for downstream markets (eg. fuel and feed) and process inputs (eg. high quality CO2 and waste heat). Partner group possesses large scale manufacturing expertise as well as experience with rapid expansion in biofuel markets. BPA is also working with several academic institutions and industry groups to optimize products for downstream markets.

Company website

Flexible algae feedstocks for a variety of markets. We offer dried algae biomass or extracted oils for nutritionals, feeds and feed additives, chemicals and fuels.

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