U.S. ethanol producer Green Plains installs commercial-scale technology to grow algae for fish, livestock feed, dietary supplements at its Shenandoah, Iowa, ethanol plant, in JV with Rhode Island-based BioProcess Algae

LOS ANGELES , October 28, 2011 () – Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc., has entered into a joint venture to produce algae at its biofuel plants in the U.S. in an effort to tap into more profitable markets for algae-derived products, reported the Star Tribune on Oct. 22.

In partnership with BioProcess Algae LLC of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, Green Plains installed commercial-scale technology for growing algae at its Shenandoah, Iowa, ethanol plant in August.

BioProcess Algae’s Grower Harvest technology uses the carbon dioxide that is emitted from the ethanol plant’s smokestack to feed algae growing in covered ponds.

While some say biofuel production won’t be profitable for years, Green Plains expects to turn a profit in “10 months,” said Todd Becker, CEO of Green Plains, the Star Tribune reported.

The profits will come from algae-derived products such as feeds for fish farms and livestock and Omega-3 fatty acids for food and dietary supplements, said Becker, noting that he expects to have a customer base when production starts next spring.

Last week, algae from the joint venture passed a key test for poultry feed.

Green Plains aims to be using the technology at all nine of its ethanol plants in two to three years. The investment of US$300 million to $500 million would expand algae production to 250,000 tons a year, Becker said, reported the Star Tribune.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based company is the fourth-largest ethanol producer in the U.S.

Next spring, the Iowa joint venture plans to start expanding its technology, eventually replicating it on up to 400 acres of ponds, said Tim Burns, CEO of BioProcess Algae.

Biofuels will still be a produced by Green Plains, but as a byproduct of algae processing, using the oils that aren’t sold in more profitable markets. Omega-3 oils can bring in more than $3,000 per ton, said Burns, the Star Tribune reported.

Eventually, the joint venture plans to sell its algae-growing technology to others, including electric utilities and other ethanol producers.

A new drive for products like dietary supplements -- which have been made from algae before -- should bring them to market in late 2015 and 2016, said Mary Rosenthal, executive director of the Algal Biomass Organization.

This month, Sapphire Energy Inc. broke ground on a $135-million project in New Mexico that will grow algae for fuel in outdoor ponds, reported the Star Tribune.

The primary source of this article is the Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Oct. 22, 2011.

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