Solazyme hints at plans for European algae oil plant

Biotechnology firm Solazyme has revealed that it is mulling plans for its first European production plant, as it seeks to expand its portfolio of algae-based oils.

The US-based company, which first rose to prominence as a provider of biofuels made from algae, but which has since branched out to also provide alternatives to natural oils such as palm oil, this year opened two major new production facilities in Brazil and Iowa.

However, in an interview with BusinessGreen Solazyme’s chief executive and chairman Jonathan Wolfson revealed further expansion was on the cards. “Today we have relatively modets volume compared to the vast array of products we can bring to market, so our strategy is to continue to partner to bring many more plants up,” he said. “We are in the process of working quietly on a whole host of potential plants.”

He added that the company was “closest” to an investment decision with proposals for a plant in Europe, hinting there was a “very reasonable chance we’ll announce a new project in 2015”. However, he declined to be drawn on the likely location and scale of a new production facility.

Solazyme specialises in using plant sugars as a feedstock to produce algae that can then be specially tailored using a range of techniques, including “traditional genetic engineering techniques”, to produce a wide variety of different oils, ranging from biofuels to cooking oils and oil for use in cosmetics.

Advocates of algae-based oils maintain that they have a much lower carbon and water footprint than first generation biofuels made from energy crops, while also drastically easing pressure on forested land by replacing palm oils or oil derived from soy or rape seed.

Wolfson also revealed that the company was currently focusing on breaking into the food market and was considering launching its own algae-based cooking oil, which he said would be the healthiest and greenest cooking oil in the world.

 

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