Company turning algae into fuel

ROANOKE, LA (KPLC) - - From algae to fuel and it's happening in Jeff Davis Parish. It may sound weird but a company called Aquatic Energy in Roanoke is doing just that. Using biotechnology they are able to grow algae in series of pools and produce renewable fuels and food sources.

Senator David Vitter was given a tour of the property where it all takes place and said he believes Louisiana has the potential to be the leader in this technology.

"I wanted to come here in person and see it firsthand and from everything I've read and everything I've seen I think this has enormous potential on the food side, the fuel side and on the job side in Louisiana. Because Louisiana is the natural home, particularly in Southwest Louisiana, is the natural home for this type of activity," said Sen. Vitter.

They cultivate the algae in smaller 100 foot ponds for about 30 days before it reaches a density sustainable enough to be transferred into larger 400 foot production ponds.

"We recycle all the water back into the pond and the algae grows up in the next few days and we are ready for another harvest. It's almost like a continuous harvest," explained David Johnston, CEO of Aquatic Energy.

The green waters continue to churn 24 hours a day. Every few days they harvest several inches off the top of the ponds and begin the de-watering process. The algae goes through a series of tanks to separate the water. It's then put through a belt press machine and dryer before being filtered to oil and food stock.

"With the food partners we work with they want to use that protein meal for poultry, for swine and different food stocks they mix high protein. And then on the other side we work with bio diesel companies and vegetable oil companies that want to use it as an alternative," said Johnston.

Aquatic Energy plans to expand their operation to 800 foot ponds - gearing their operation to go commercial to serve refineries and animal meal users.

"Once we've mastered production in the 800 foot ponds we are just building more ponds to get to a commercial basis. Instead of seven ponds, we will have 1,000 ponds on a commercial facility," said Johnston. "And is very efficient and environmentally friendly. We also offer a competitive price when compared to fuel. We can offer our product at $55 per barrel and a profit at $75 to $80 per barrel, which is still good considering the current price of fuel."

Aquatic Energy hopes to become commercial within a year or so and provide 50 to 60 jobs at each facility. According to Johnston their goal is to expand to provide thousands of jobs in Louisiana over the next ten years.

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