By Joey Aguilar/Staff Reporter
Future commercialisation of Qatar’s algae production may require about 100 hectares of land, an official of Qatar University’s (QU) Centre for Sustainable Development has said.
“If we take it step by step we can increase the possibility of succeeding, we are going to start at a one hectare site in the very near future,” research associate Kira Schipper told Gulf Times.
She said they are proposing to increase the land by 10 times, a scale up for each step until it reaches 100 hectares or more.
QU currently operates an algae testing plant at its farm in Al Khor for the university’s Algal Technologies Programme (ATP). It consists of open race-way ponds with paddle wheels and closed flat panel photo bioreactors.
QU’s research team is trying to select the best algae strains out of the 200 strains being tested at the facility.
Schipper said they have to determine the best place to establish and operate the commercial algae production plant.
“Considering the conditions in Qatar, we have to do it with sea water, we need to be near the industries and we are going to use CO2 to grow algae so there is a lot of interest to look at where the best location is,” she observed.
Schipper also sees a possibility, as well as opportunities, of Qatar exporting algae products in the future.
“We are focused on supplying it for Qatar first and if we have a surplus we can always look to expand the market to other places, first in the GCC region,” she said. “If there is more demand, maybe outside of that.”
Asserting that producing animal and marine feeds are more feasible now, Schipper stressed that biofuel production remains “on the table.”
The first phase of the algae project, funded by Qatar Airways and Qatar Science and Technology Park, mainly focused on producing biofuels: bio-crude oil, biodiesel, and a blend for the aviation industry.
“We did start looking just at biofuels but now we realised that animal and fish feeds for example are something that are much more nurtured to be realised from algae,” Schipper noted.
“In this project we found out that algae are so much more diverse, the reason why we diversified our efforts into more than just biofuels,” she added. “We can have different kinds of products depending on the needs for the Qatar society.”
Algae can also be cultivated to produce food for human consumption and health products. However, these research projects will need additional funding, according to Schipper.
QU also has ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment which, she said is very supportive of their algae project. “They can also support us to have access with different companies and supporting our programme in that way.”
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