IHI biotech unit succeeds in cutting cost of growing oil-producing algae


Biofuel research firm IHI NeoG Algae LLC, a unit of major heavy machinery maker IHI Corp., has succeeded in cutting the cost of producing oil from algae, an alternative to crude oil-based fuel.

Working at a 100-sq.-meter outdoor location, the company was able to cut the cost from about ¥1,000 to about ¥500 per liter partly thanks to breed improvement.

The oil, called Mobura, can be used as jet fuel and materials for plastic bottles and cosmetics, Kawasaki-based IHI NeoG said.

The company hopes to further reduce the per-liter Mobura production cost to below ¥100, the price of refining crude oil, through further breed improvement and automation, with the aim of putting the new biofuel into practical use by 2020.

The IHI unit, established in 2011, is partly owned by Gene & Gene Technology, a biotechnology startup in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, and the Kawasaki-based Neo-Morgan Laboratory.

The alga was developed by the Meo-Morgan Laboratory based on a fast-breeding species discovered by Gene & Gene Technology. The algae are being grown at a pond using IHI’s plant technology.

IHI NeoG hopes to grow the algae near thermal power stations in the future so that they can absorb carbon dioxide emitted from the plants, to help curb global warming, company officials said.