Brazil is set to build the world’s first algae-based biofuel plant, which could convert seaweed into as much as 1.2 million liters of fuel each year. Located in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco, the facility will be built on an ethanol-producing sugar cane plantation, and will utilize carbon emissions from the plantation. If everything goes to plan, the biofuel plant will go into production by late 2013.

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The entire project is being overseen by Austrian firm SAT and aims to produce 1.2 million liters of algae-based biofuels annually. Speaking to the press, Rafael Bianchini, head of SAT’s Brazilian subsidiary said that the $9.8 million facility will also make use of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted in the  production process in order to speed up the photosynthesis process in the seaweeds and thus reduce emissions of pollutant gases. Bianchini said one of the plant’s goals is to “convert the CO2 from a passive to an active” state, and make use of the CO2 emissions lost in the sugar cane ethanol production.

“For each ethanol liter produced, one kilogram of CO2 is released in the atmosphere. We are going to take this CO2 to feed our plant,” he added. In early production, the algae-based biofuel facility will use just 5% of the emissions from the sugar cane ethanol process, but SAT expect this figure to increase over time.

While the project has yet to be approved by Brazil’s National Petroleum Agency, it is expected to get the green light in a nation which is the world’s second largest producer of biofuels after the United States.


Images © US Embassy Guyana andMr Craig Simpson