ompanies involved in the algae-to-fuels domain have started to realize that it could take much longer than originally expected to derive fuels from algae. Hence, as a starting point, many of these companies are exploring venturing into high value, non-fuel products from algae. This allows them to generate profits fairly early into their venture while at the same time ensuring that they are able to continue with their efforts in sustainable fuel production.
Recognizing this trend and the need for a comprehensive resource on algae products, India-based Oilgae has come up with a “Comprehensive Report on Attractive Algae Product Opportunities.” This report provides an overview of the wide range of non-fuel applications of algae – both current and future prospects. It is intended to provide entrepreneurs with an idea of how to derive more benefits from their algal energy ventures.
Over 50 algae products are discussed in detail in the report, including: methane, ethanol, biodiesel, spirulina, astaxanthin, lutein, anti-fungal agents, agar, carrageenan, anti-cellulite, dyes and colorants, solvents, chemicals, lubricants and pigments.
Among the highlights of this report:
- Over 15,000 individual compounds have been identified in microalgae masses responsible for producing numerous useful products.
- The market value of lutein was around $233 million in 2010 and is expected to reach $309 million by 2018
- Algae based added value commodities such as lactic acid, PHAs and butanol price ranges from US $1300 to US $7000 per ton
- Around 35,000 tons of microalgal dry mass are processed in the three market segments, “diet”, “food” and “cosmetics.” More than 85 percent of biomass is used in the application areas “functionalized foods” and “food supplements.”
- A large market for aquaculture feeds could be developed for microalgae biomass containing long chain omega-3 fatty acids, replacing ﬁsh meal and oil, but production costs must be reduced from the current $50-$100 to $1-2/kg of algal biomass.
- Pharmaceuticals are the fastest growing section of the market, but as yet there are only two approved omega-3 based pharmaceuticals in the world, which together account for 1.6% of consumption with nearly US $1.5 billion in sales. Other EPA and DHA based triglyceride reduction products are under development, but it will take some time before these achieve regulatory approval and eventual commercialization.
- The current wholesale market price for algae omega-3 oil is about US $140/kg, which is higher than the pricing for fish oil derived products. The Global Organization for EPA and DHA and Frost and Sullivan (2010) estimated that the global market for EPA and DHA omega-3 oils exceeded 85,000 tons in 2009 and was estimated to grow to 135,000-190,000 tons by 2015.
- Although >95% of the astaxanthin market consumes synthetically derived astaxanthin, consumer demand for natural products makes the synthetic pigments much less desirable and provides an opportunity for the production of natural astaxanthin by Haematococcus.