By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Algae firm blooming
Research company has plans to expand
Algae WEB 1
Tray McConchie holds a beaker Monday at Algae Energy Inc. The company focuses on fabrication, research and development for Algae.Tec Ltd., which produces a range of biofuels, including diesel and jet, from algae. - photo by Autumn Vetter

A local subsidiary of a biofuel company has plans to expand.

Representatives of Algae Energy Inc., a 100-percent subsidiary of Algae.Tec Ltd., said the 20,000-square-foot facility on Industrial Park Boulevard will add another 51,000 square feet next door.

Tray McConchie, business manager of the company, said the expansion could take place soon.

“We’re in the process of leasing the additional space now,” he said. “Our plan is to move forward Jan. 1, 2012. We still have to actually sign the lease, but we are getting close.”

Earl McConchie, managing director and Tray McConchie’s father, said Algae Energy has experienced much growth since moving into the current facility, southwest of Cumming, in April.

“We started with six employees and now we’re close to 25,” the elder McConchie said. “We’ve added a couple each month … and at this time next year, I project we could be close to 100.”

Algae Energy focuses on fabrication, research and development for Algae.Tec Ltd., which produces a range of biofuels, including diesel and jet, from algae.

The younger McConchie said there are about 300,000 known species of algae.

“We’re studying about 50 or so of the most common ones here,” he said.

In the process to produce biofuel, Tray McConchie explained that algae are grown in water and then harvested.

“We grow it, dry it, crush it and squeeze out the oil,” he said.

Rather than growing the algae outdoors in ponds, where conditions are difficult to control, Algae.Tec uses a specialized container system.

The system uses retrofitted 40-foot shipping containers linked to solar light-capture arrays.

Fabricated at the Cumming facility, the system will be used at Algae.Tec plants in several locations overseas.

Earl McConchie said the parent company is building a plant in Nowra, Australia, next to a business that creates excess carbon dioxide, on which the algae feed.

“They’re big producers of carbon dioxide and we’re big consumers of carbon dioxide, so it’s a very symbiotic relationship,” he said.

The elder McConchie said he believes biofuels are the way of the future.

He approached investors about his company five years ago, but at that time, crude oil prices were running about $45 per barrel.

Today, they have jumped to about $100 a barrel, and are projected to keep rising.

“Our product can be produced for about $40 a barrel,” he said. “So when crude was only $45 a barrel, there wasn’t as much interest in what we’re doing.

“But now we’re learning what the real value of crude is … we recognize that with today’s supply and demand, sooner or later we’re going to run out of fossil fuels.”

And that’s where biofuels can come in very handy, Earl McConchie said.

“A hundred million years ago there were all these plants and animals that died and decomposed … and now we have fossil fuels,” he said.

“We’re not doing anything that much different. We’re just speeding up the process by several million years.”