Japanese microalgae company Euglena plans new demo plant to produce jet biofuels for ANA
Euglena President Mitsuru Izumo (left) and ANA EVP Kiyoshi Tonomoto
Thu 17 Dec 2015 – Japanese microalgae company Euglena has announced plans to build the country’s first demonstration plant to produce jet biofuel from algae. In a partnership with Chevron Lummus Global, the refinery is to be built in Yokohama and anticipated to cost around 3 billion yen ($24m), with an aim to start operations in 2018. The refinery is expected to produce around 33,000 gallons of jet biofuel per year, which will be supplied to All Nippon Airways (ANA), and Euglena hopes to proceed with a full commercial plant “in the 2020s”. Other construction, commercialisation and procurement partners in the venture include engineering company Chiyoda, Isuzu Motors and Itochu Enex.
The fuel is refined from oil extracted from euglena, the algae strain after which the company takes its name, and is claimed to have similar chemical properties as conventional jet kerosene.
ANA EVP Kiyoshi Tonomoto said the algae-based fuel will be mixed as a 10% blend with conventional jet fuel and could be used for one round-trip a week between Tokyo Haneda and Osaka International airports a week.
The demo plant will also be able to refine from other sources of algae and also used cooking oil in case there are insufficient supplies of euglena available.
Euglena President Mitsuru Izumo said the biggest challenge to commercialisation of his company’s fuel was the price premium but said he aims to make the fuel price competitive over time. The company already makes nutritional supplements from the algae it produces and it can also be used in the manufacture of cosmetics.
Private sector research firm Fuji Keizai estimates the global demand for aviation biofuels will increase by a factor 16 between 2012 and 2030 to reach an annual market value of 11.88 trillion yen ($95bn).
Last year, over 30 companies and organisations based in Japan from the aerospace, fuel, engineering, finance and research sectors formed a group called Initiatives for Next Generation Aviation Fuels (INAF) to plan a roadmap towards using nationally sourced aviation biofuels by 2020, when the Olympic and Paralympic Games are to be held in Tokyo (see article).