Algae and Seagrass Research Group

The MURDOCH UNIVERSITY ALGAE R&D CENTRE Is a dedicated facility for research and development on algae, algae culture, and algae culture systems, with the main focus on the development of commercial-scale algal production.

Current Projects include:

  • production of algae biofuels using saline algae
  • new algal strains with commercial potential
  • comparison of algae culture in open and 'closed' culture systems
  • algae for wastewater treatment
  • coccolithophoriod algae for CO2 capture
  • in-culture evolution
  • non-destructive extraction of lipids and hydrocabons
  • GIS-based modelling of potential sites for algae production plants in Western Australia

Algae Biofuels Pilot Plant

In November 2010 our algae biofuels pilot plant (part of a joint project with the University of Adelaide) was commissioned. The pilot plant is located in Karratha, WA., next to the Yurralyi Maya Power Station power station. The pilot plant allows the testing at scale of the saline algae biofuels process developed by Murdoch University and the University of Adelaide. Karratha was chosen as the location because of the high sunshine and the availability of other key resources. In Karratha the elite strains of algae isolated and characterised by us are grown and the lipid productivity is being optimised. A new large-scale harvesting process is being tested and further processing of the biomass is taking place in Adelaide.

The multi-million dollar pilot plant is part of a project supported by the Australian Government through the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, together with funding of an industry partner, SQC Pty Ltd. A joint venture company (Muradel Pty Ltd) has been formed between the project partners and Muradel now continues the commercialisation of this work and now operate the Karratha pilot plant.

In long-term small pond trials in Perth and Adelaide over 3 years we have achieved production rates equivalent to 50 tonnes per hectare per year, about 40% of which can be converted to oil. These high production rates are expected to increase at the new pilot plant due to the even better climatic conditions in Karratha.