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IHI to test algae-based jet fuel production in Thailand

Project with Siam Cement scales up previous experiments in Japan

BANGKOK -- IHI will conduct large-scale verification experiments in Thailand on a process for producing jet fuel from the oil extracted from cultured microalgae.

The goal is to have a practical technology ready by 2020 so the biojet fuel can be used for test flights during the Tokyo Olympics. Commercialization of the fuel is not expected until around 2030, however.

For these tests, the Japanese industrial machinery maker is teaming up with the Siam Cement Group, a major manufacturer of cement and building materials in Thailand. The project will be set up on land owned by SCG in Saraburi Province in central Thailand.

Microalgae will be cultured and harvested to study the overall process, establish methods of mass production, and work to lower the production costs. The testing is a continuation and expansion of a project backed by Japan's New Energy Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) to produce algae-based biofuel. The initiative includes University of Kobe as part of an industry-government-academia effort.

In Japan, the partners are testing outdoor cultivation of algae in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The verification experiments in Thailand represent a scaling up of this effort, with plans to culture the algae on a site covering 10,000 sq. meters, which is seven times larger than the site in Kagoshima.

The climate of Thailand is perfectly suited for the culturing of algae, with its long hours of sunlight and its relatively even temperatures between day and night.

Once the technology has reached a practical level, Thailand might also become a place where the algae are cultured for commercialization purposes. If the sites are located in industry-intensive parts of Thailand, the algae could use the carbon dioxide emitted from factories for their photosynthesis.

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