Almost 200 people will be employed at Aurora Algae’s commercial facility, with work expected to begin next year.
Last Monday the company announced it would proceed to commercial start-up in Karratha after a successful trial of a pilot project in the last two years.
Managing director Matt Caspari said the company had already employed about 50 workers at its demonstration facility and more were expected to come on board.
“The first stage (of the commercial facility) is going (to employ) about 90 people,” he said.
“The total expansion project would be about a $300 million investment, all in we would be up around 170 people and that’s not including construction or other jobs that may come from this project.”
Mr Caspari said the facility should be operating about a year after ground was broken in 2014, with the cost estimated at $86 million.
“We don’t need to do any outside funding, we have the investors around the table,” he said.
Premier Colin Barnett committed $10 million to help build a common use seawater pipeline which would be used at the new facility.
“To our American friends this is a fantastic project and it takes Western Australia to the very leading edge of the science of using algae to produce products that are needed in our community,” Mr
Mr Caspari welcomed the funding, saying it was a “very important piece” in the facility.
“Any support you can get from a government on a first-of-its-kind facility is really attractive to investors, so it has helped us bring investment around the table and into our company,” he said.
The company can produce biodiesel, health foods and pharmaceuticals from the algae which is harvested and dried before the oil is extracted for the various uses.
Mr Barnett said the project would be located in the Maitland Industrial Area which had been proposed for more than 10 years.
“This is very much a science project,” he said. “It has gone through its development period as a pilot program employing about 50 people and it will now go into the full production commercial stage.
“This is a world-leading industry. This is a new development in Western Australia based on science originally developed from Berkeley University California.”
Karratha and Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive John Lally said the project was exciting because it helped diversify the economy.
Mr Lally said it was good to have a smaller international company in the Pilbara as opposed to the massive resource conglomerates which were based in the region.
“In countries like America money is very cheap, interest rates are practically zero, so if these people want to invest this is the place to go,” he said.
Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls agreed with Mr Lally in terms of the diversification the project would bring.“The Pilbara is ideally suited to the development of the algae industry due to the abundant sunshine and close proximity to sea water — the two key ingredients for the efficient production of algae — and the ready supply of carbon dioxide that is a by-product of the resources sector,” Mr Grylls said.
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