“Enomoto Algae” is IHI’s improved strain of Botryococcus that reportedly multiplies at a rapid speed. Photo: IHI NeoG Algae LLC

“Enomoto Algae” is IHI’s improved strain of Botryococcus that reportedly multiplies at a rapid speed. Photo: IHI NeoG Algae LLC

J dropcapapan’s IHI Corporation has announced that they have succeeded in stably cultivating a modified high-output algal strain in a 1,500 square meter open pond in Kagoshima, Kagoshima, Japan. New Energy Industrial Technology Development Organization is supporting the project. This marks an important milestone, company officials say, that will help pave the way for the algae-based biofuel industry in Japan.

In 2012 IHI Corporation, Kobe University, and Chitose Laboratory Corporation began R&D to produce algae-based biofuel with the support of NEDO, using hyper-growth Botryococcus braunii. Hyper-growth Botryococcus is a strain of algae owned by Gene and Gene Technology Corporation Limited, a company founded by Taira Enomoto, a professor at Kobe University.

IHI’s 1500 sq. meter “hyper-growth” Botryococcus braunii cultivation pond.

IHI’s 1500 sq. meter “hyper-growth” Botryococcus braunii cultivation pond.

According to IHI, the enhanced strain of algae features an exceptionally high growth rate and is able to produce high hydrocarbon content. It allows for large colony size and better floating performance, attributes designed to ultimately reduce production costs.

The group achieved stable cultivation of the algae in a 100 square meter open pond in 2013. The latest milestone, cultivating the algae in a 1,500 square meter open pond using sun light as the sole energy source, is a big step toward commercialization, according to the group.

The partners are now developing technology to reduce the production cost and optimize the process for algae-based biofuel. The mass production technology demonstrated at Kagoshima will be applied to commercial production processes overseas, according to IHI.