Chile will produce environmentally-friendly biofuels

A local company is farming algae in the waters around the island of Chiloé with plans to produce biofuels.

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Chile is on track to become an environmentally-friendly producer of algae-based biofuels within the next five years.

After dedicating itself to cultivating algae farms in the waters around the island of Chiloé, local enterprise BAL Chile now has its sights set on biofuel production for industrial use.

The Chilean company is an offshoot of US firm BioArchitectureLab which aims to enhance the production of macro-algae in reliable and sustainable manner.

The company’s CEO, Benjamin González, announced the plans in a statement this week.

“Within the next five years we hope to be producing [biofuels] at a commercial scale,” he said. “At present, BAL is developing algae farming on the island of Chiloé and we are looking for alternatives to expand our testing in the north. There have been significant algae productivity improvements and cost reductions.”

Within the next two years, the company is confident that it will have developed processes that will enable it to produce commercially viable quantities of carbohydrates from its seaweed crops.

González explained that the macro-algae being farmed in the waters around Chiloé were ideal for biofuel production because they do not possess a lignin, a common plant compound that stores sugars and slows down the crucial biodisposition process.

”This, together with the enzymes produced by the microbes developed by BAL, makes entry easier and more economical to these sugars,“ he added.

At the moment BAL Chile is studying the best techniques for cultivating algae from around the world in order to increase its harvests without interfering with other businesses or having a negative impact on the environment.

The company has received support from Innova Chile, the innovation arm of the Chilean Economic Development Agency (Corfo).