Iran-based company produces biofuel from microalgal Nannochloropsis

Iran-based Qeshm Microalgae Biorefinery Co. (QMAB) has launched a biofuel being marketed as BAYA®, produced from a species of Nannochloropsis (strain 6016) isolated from the Persian Gulf, and employing QMAB’s unique process of scaled up cultivation and biofuel production.

The Qeshm Microalgae Biorefinery is located on Qeshm, an Iranian island in the Strait of Hormuz, the largest island in the Persian Gulf, 60 kilometers from the Omani port of Khasab, and about 180 kilometers from the UAE Port of Rashid.

The BAYA® microalgae cell contains 50% lipid on a dry weight basis.

The company’s open pond cultivation system consists of a series of pre-culture ponds through which algae inoculants and nutrients circulate during the daytime. The concentration of the algae doubles every four hours, according to the company.

QMAB’s Nannochloropsis’ lipid content ranges from 31% to 68% dry weight, and the lipid composition is 79% TAG, 9% polar lipids, and 2.5% hydrocarbons; the rest being pigments, free fatty acids, and various other molecules.

The seawater’s salinity ranges from 35 to 37 g dissolved salts. Enriched seawater with nitrogen & phosphorus is used as the algae nutrient source.

QMAB’s cultivation processes are broken up into blocks, called fields, containing reactor beds, algae inoculation and nutrient source, a COsource, circulation pumps, and harvest sumps. Each field contains 300 x 3000 m² reactor beds. Carbon dioxide is drawn from a gas fired power plant and diluted to a concentration of 6% CO2 with dry air.

30% of the culture is harvested every day and collected at a harvest sump location where it is continuously pumped into a high-pressure homogenizer. From there, the algae are fed through a pipeline system to where lipid extraction takes place. In the high-pressure homogenizer 90% of the lipids from the algae are extracted into the lipid stream (the remaining 10% are trapped in the biomass). The broken cells then separate into lipid, water, and biomass layers in a gravity clarifier.

From the clarifier, the lipid layer is siphoned off. The remaining water and biomass mixture is partially separated in the clarifier as well. The water separated by the centrifuge, as well as the water from the clarifier, are recycled for algae cultivation. The moist biomass residue cake enters the dryer, where water is boiled off until a dry biomass solid of 10% or less water content is left.

After a series of separations, the primary product is a mixture of straight chain alkanes with carbon numbers ranging from C13 to C20 (C13H28 to C20H2). These n-alkanes are suitable for direct blending into a diesel pool or for further upgrading/reforming into gasoline, jet fuel, or gasoline.


Photo: QMAB’s biodiesel pilot plant with 25,000 L capacity has been operating since 2009.

Reprinted with permission by Algae Industry Magazine

View original article at: QMAB launches BAYA® microalgal biofuel


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