Tech Dec 03, 2015 05:22 AM EST

Japan's largest airline to use biofuel obtained from green algae

By Staff Writer

Japan's largest airline ANA Holdings Inc. is planning to use Euglena Co. bio-fuel made from the algae as Euglena who previously was algae-based nutritional supplement manufacturer, has teamed with Chevron Lummus Global LCC to build initial plant in Yokohama, Japan, to begin operations in 2018.

Euglena was in the business of developing algae as a nutritional supplement for the past 10 years.  Euglena has the technology to cultivate euglena, freshwater unicellular organisms that can be used to make bio-fuel. Like the crude- oil, the oil squeezed from the euglena need to be refined for aircraft use.

According to Japan Times, ANA will use 10% of algae based fuel, Kiyoshi Tonomoto, an executive vice president at the airline, told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday. Euglena is spending about 3 billion yen ($24 million) on a demonstration plant to produce about 125 kiloliters (33,000 gallons) of the fuel a year in Yokohama, Japan, the Tokyo-based company said.

Bloomberg reports that Euglena Co. has teamed up with Chevron Lummus Global LCC to build initial plant in 2018 to begin operations in 2018, and aims to construct a commercial plant in the 2020s. The plant is expected to cost several dozen billion yen.  The U.S. hydro processing technologies and services provider will supply the basic design of the refinery and the catalyst required in the refining process.  ANA's test will add those to those by other airlines including Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. and Japan Airlines Co.      

Nikkei Asian Reviews states   that the government has been intensively supporting Euglena research and development. A global CO2 emission cap in 2020 is expected to drive demand for alternative jet fuels. "I'm very confident we'll commercialize bio jet fuel by 2020," said Izumo, the founder of Euglena. "We expect the bio-fuel business to overtake health food, but we don't know yet if this will be in 2025 or 2030. We're still in the R&D stage."

 Keeping the costs low is the biggest challenge for algae-based oils, said Taira Enomoto, a professor of molecular biology at Kobe University. But Izumo says. "Airlines will have an incentive to use bio-fuel even if it's somewhat more expensive".  "We're now working on increasing the scale of production. We need giant facilities to create the tens of thousands of tons required by airlines."

Izumo traces his interest in euglena to looking for a super food to help the poor in Bangladesh, where the company provides free cookies containing euglena as part of the daily lunch of 2,500 elementary school students. He sees Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Africa as potential markets, he said.

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