Muradel: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

March 4, 2014 |

Company description: 

Muradel is a start-up company that originated from a joint research project undertaken between the University of Adelaide, Murdoch University and SQC Pty Ltd. The project team at Murdoch University was able to isolate and optimise the production of high lipid yielding marine microalgae strains and the University of Adelaide team developed appropriate downstream processing technology, which was demonstrated at the project pilot plant located in Karratha, WA. Importantly the project concluded that microalgae-derived biodiesel produced via traditional trans-esterification processes was not a viable option, but produced important IP in relation to managing large-scale growth of marine algae in open paddle wheel mixed ponds and the associated downstream processing technology.

The University of Adelaide project team sought further funding through the Australian Research Council to advance the integration and development of their technology to improve the economic viability of Muradel’s processes and ensure that they are truly sustainable. The ARC approved the project (ARCLP100200616) in 2010 and funding ($940K) commenced in 2011.

A major aim of the ARCLP work was to optimise the recycle of substrate (nutrients and water) from as many sources as practical within the microalgae to fuel processes to overcome one of the main hurdles for economic viability, which is the supply and cost of nutrients (carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorous).

The 2 projects allowed Muradel to continue R&D for the production of green crude from marine microalgae that can be processed in existing oil refinery infrastructure for traditional liquid transportation fuels.

The Situation:

Muradel has been operating a pilot plant near Karratha, WA, that has been used to develop sustainable biofuel processing technology in line with Australia’s aim to reduce carbon emissions. The pilot plant has been operated continuously over 2 years to test the carbon neutral technology developed by the Company’s partners to grow and then concentrate the microalgae which will be converted to ‘green’ crude oil. The secret to Muradel’s technology is the exploitation of a tiny non-invasive, naturally occurring and highly productive marine microalgae that can be readily concentrated and turned into oil.

As of May 2013, Muradel has decided to move its $3m algae pilot plant from Karratha, in the northwest of Australia, to Whyalla in the South because of budgetary constraints. The company, whose operations are primarily in the R&D stage as the company has not gotten out of the red yet, faced challenges paying for employees whose salaries were competitive with the local mining industry. The company intends to return to Karratha one day, as the region has high temperatures and low rainfall, making it an ideal location for growing algae.

The Whyalla City Council has been an engaged and pro-active partner in the development of Muradel’s plans for its demonstration plant and earlier this year agreed to lease an area of Council land for the project.

Muradel is an Australian joint venture between Murdoch University, the University of Adelaide and SQC, the latter linked to Aban Australia , the principal source of private funding to date.

In March 2013, the Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon. Martin Ferguson, announced $5.5 million for Muradel to demonstrate its algal biofuel technology. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

Muradel will use ARENA’s $4.5 million investment in a $10.9 million project up scaling its marine algal production and harvesting technology from pilot to demonstration size near Whyalla, South Australia. The technology has the potential to become sustainable “green crude” for the existing petroleum industry and to provide fuel for aviation.

Major Investors

Muradel Pty Ltd was incorporated in December 2010 as a joint venture between Murdoch University, Adelaide Research and Innovation Pty Ltd and SQC Pty Ltd.

Muradel’s technology development is supported by Australia’s leading algae science from Murdoch University and the University of Adelaide.

SQC Pty Ltd is an outside investor.

Top Milestones for 200913

Progressed from Proof of Concept to Technology Development.

  • Discovery and validation of an elite high salinity, high yielding microalgae.
  • Construction and operation of a 2 acre Pilot Plant near Karratha, Western Australia
  • Development of a high efficiency, low energy algae harvesting technology
  • In June 2013, the Minister for Resources and Energy, The Hon. Gary Gray AO MP, unveiled the first “green crude” produced by Muradel from microalgae at pilot scale.“ Australia is in a strong position to capitalise on the growing global biofuel market, with companies like Muradel leveraging our abundance of sun and space to grow sustainable feedstocks, and applying their expertise to drive down the cost of advanced biofuels,” Minister Gray said.
  • Muradel was established as a consequence of a very successful R&D project funded by the Australian Government, the 2 participating Universities (Murdoch and Adelaide) and SQC Pty Ltd 2008-2011
  • A 3 year technology /R&D program on downstream biomass conversion options with government and SQC support was commenced in mid  2011.
  • Muradel converted algae to green crude as part of a $10.7 million project supported by a $4.4 million investment from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and $2 million through SQC . In the next phase of the project, Muradel will construct a scaled-up demonstration plant near Whyalla, South Australia, to further reduce the cost of producing the green crude. The site at Whyalla has been approved by the Whyalla Council and Muradel has commenced the design for the demonstration plant, the tendering process and community consultation. The demonstration plant is scheduled for completion early next year.

Business Model: (e.g. owner-operator, technology licensor, fee-based industry supplier, investor)

Operated as a limited liability, private Company

Scope to be an owner operator of licensee of technology

Competitive Edge(s):

MUR Elite algae strains

MUR Algae Harvesting System

Australian owned and based

Access to very considerable areas of marginal land

Excellent climate for algae production

Strong Government support

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances. 

Partnerships with Aban, India, OTHERS TBA

Stage  (Bench, pilot, demonstration, commercial)

Pilot Plant with 20 and 200 sq m raceway ponds

Company website

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Category: 5-Minute Guide

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