Plans to expand Muradel’s operations to a commercial scale are already underway.
Muradel chief executive officer and University of Adelaide Associate Professor David Lewis said it was always the renewable fuels company’s intentions to expand the operation.
“It’s always been our intention to build the commercial plant in the Whyalla region and we’ve chosen to stay on the same site,” Dr Lewis said.
Muradel is discussing its plans with Whyalla City Council to obtain land for the expansion and a design is being developed for an initial 100 hectare operation.
“We’re already negotiating access to land and we’re working with KBR, an engineering firm, who are designing that plant for us at the moment,” Dr Lewis said.
Dr Lewis said the overall expansion would be a staged-process, first going up to a 100 hectare operation and then eventually 1000 hectares.
“The expansion will be a step-wise expansion so we won’t build a 1000 hectare system overnight, it will take us several years,” Dr Lewis said.
Dr Lewis said the aim was to have 100 hectares developed by end of 2017, however more information and planning was required before then.
“We are definitely planning our fundraising and investor strategy to expand the plant from the end of 2016,” Dr Lewis said.
“We need to operate this plant for at least another 12 months to get the data to validate our business plan.”
Next month, Muradel will commence talks with downstream oil processers about refining and distributing its crude as transport fuel for shipping, aviation and road vehicles.
Dr Lewis said if the demonstration plant was successfully scaled to a commercial plant, it would produce 500,000 barrels of refinable green crude a year by 2019, providing enough petrol and diesel to fuel 30,000 vehicles for a year.
“This is world-leading technology which can be scaled up exponentially to help steer our fossil fuel- dependent economy to a more sustainable future,” Dr Lewis said.
“At a time when Australia imports most of its crude and refined transport fuels, Muradel’s advanced biofuel technology can improve Australia’s terms of trade, reduce life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, and improve Australia’s fuel security.”
The planned 1000-hectare commercial plant would also create at least 100 new skilled and operational jobs in the Whyalla region.
“We estimate in excess of 100 staff for the commercial plant,” Dr Lewis said.
“At the moment we employ six on site here and I imagine that will go to eight early next year.
Dr Lewis said it would be expecte staffing would at least triple the size of the current staff numbers for the first expansion,
At a commercial scale, Muradel expects production costs would be on par with the cost of producing fossil fuels for transport.
“Not only will the plant be a boon for the region’s economy, the algae ponds will act as carbon sinks that can capture greenhouse gas emissions produced by Whyalla’s heavy industry,” Dr Lewis said.
The demonstration plant was partially funded through a $4.4 million grant from Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Additional in-kind and financial support came from Whyalla City Council, the South Australian government through BioSA, and Muradel’s shareholders.