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We’re wading into algae

September 8, 2021

Peter Martin, Technical manager at our Clydach Nickel Refinery (CNR), stands in front of tubes of algae, which are grown in a controlled environment over a period of weeks. Photo: Vale Archive

It’s one thing to have an idea. It’s quite another to see that idea come to light. Clydach Nickel Refinery (CNR) has been working with Swansea University’s Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project for the last two years. The project aims to bridge the gap between ideas generated by research, and developing those ideas into commercial solutions that the industry can adopt. 

CNR was asked to work collaboratively with RICE to use industrial carbon dioxide emissions to grow algae in an algae farm.

Reaping what we sow 

According to Peter Martin, Technical manager at CNR, the goal of the algae farm is to demonstrate that industrial-derived carbon dioxide could be used to grow algae. The algae will be used to produce high-value protein and pigment products whilst decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on site and increasing revenue and profits – the cherry on top for our company. There is potential for the algae to be used to clean trace amounts of nickel from process waters, further reducing CNR’s already low emissions to the local environment. 

This is the 40 metre-long polytunnel that houses the growing algae. It is situated on our CNR property. Photo: Vale Archive

RICE built a 40 metre-long polytunnel on land available at CNR to accommodate the algae. Two 7500-litre bioreactors were constructed inside the polytunnel to grow different strains of algae. 

 The different strains of algae have started to grow, and evaluations continue to see how much carbon dioxide they consume along with the yields of high-value products they can potentially produce. Initially, the first batches of algae will be freeze-dried and could potentially be used directly as sustainable animal feed. In future, protein and pigments will be extracted from the algae. Fun fact: The algae strain called Spirulina was made famous by NASA as a dietary supplement on space missions and now is commonly used to treat a range of health-related issues such as fatigue, inflammation, allergies, and more. Pigments like Phycocyanin (a deep blue colour) also have health benefits and a high commercial value.

For more information about the Algae farm, click here and stay tuned to Vale News for updates on the project.

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