Chilean business looks to aquatic plants for renewable fuels

Santiago-based AIQ acquired the rights to a technology that converts algae into a fuel source and animal feed.  

Faced with dwindling fossil fuel reserves and rising demand from emerging powers in Asia and Latin America, the hunt is on in earnest for a renewable fuel source, and a Chilean company may well be at the forefront of a green energy future.
The beauty of the technology that the AIQ investment group has acquired from U.S. business Petroalgae is its simplicity: collect aquatic plants, place them in a bioreactive pool, wait for a day and dry them out.
“We don’t need a species that grows in a specific habitat. We only need to look for an environment where we can place bioreactive pools to produce the microorganism on a large scale, and a machine to dehydrate the aquatic plants,” Vice-President of Petroalgae Latin America, Jorge Abukhalil, told EFE.
The technology converts the same aquatic plants that turn fresh water green into a bottomless oil well.
“We have calculated that with 1,235 acres of production, you can produce between 100,000 and 150,000 barrels of crude oil annually,” Abukhalil said.
And as opposed to the environmental headaches caused by fossil fuels, the microorganisms produced in the production of algae-based fuels actually consume carbon dioxide – somewhere around 250 and 300 tons per acre cultivated.
An additional bonus is that, aside from being used to fuel vehicles, the dehydrated algae also contains all the nutrients for high-quality feed stock for pigs, birds and fish, which will help the company turn a profit as it establishes itself in the Chilean market.
AIQ already has a trial plant on the outskirts of Santiago, and the company hopes to begin large-scale production by the end of the year.
“Right now we are looking for an area of 1,235 acres where we can construct the pools,” said Andrés de Carcer, the Chilean investor responsible for the project.