Dr. Jerome Ringo, former National Wildlife Federation board of directors chair, said Bard Holdings, an algae-producing company, has the capacity to improve “the quality of life for the poorest of the poor.”
Bard officials, he explained during a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday, have made a point of locating their plants in economically depressed areas and then providing entry-level green collar jobs.
Company founder and chairman Surajit Khanna said the company’s two major focuses are providing employment and helping the U.S. become oil-independent.
He said Bard plans to accomplish both those goals in Calhoun by providing up to 150 jobs, once this plant is completely functional, and utilizing this workforce to convert algae into biodiesel fuel.
There are a few steps in revenue building that must happen first, however, he said.
Right now, the company is marketing omega oils produced with algae to the medical industry. As revenues build, biofuel will be added to production at the Calhoun plant.
“Bard’s focus from inception was to create a commercially viable system that had broad applications and could address all market verticals,” according to Khanna.
“We’re kind of starting with the high-end products and working our way down,” explained Chief Operating Officer Charles Clerecuzio.
Khanna called the company’s production model, which utilizes warehouse space to grow algae in a climate-controlled environment, “the first indoor … portable, module, algae production system in the United States.”
Others have tried to use open ponds to produce it, but that method had proven ineffective except in the Southwest U.S., due to weather changes, according to Clerecuzio.
Bard utilizes indoor space to grow algae in a climate-controlled setting, making it possible to have locations anywhere.
The Calhoun plant is the “first commercial model outside of Pennsylvania,” where Bard’s first plant is located, Khanna said. Bard has plans to open other plants in Georgia, including the Calhoun/ Dalton area, as well as Augusta and Milledgeville.
How it works
“Algae has been around almost as long as the planet has,” Clerecuzio pointed out.
However, only in recent years has the way humans view algae changed from a nuisance to an opportunity.
Now, people are beginning to see it as a possible fuel source, not just the green slime that must be eradicated from backyard ponds, he said.
Char Olivier, Chief Sustainable Officer for Bard, said, in a nutshell, the company has developed a model that uses “the elegance of photosynthesis” to produce algae that can be subsequently converted to bio fuel.
At Bard plants, algae is grown and then put in an indoor pond, where it builds biomass, Clerecuzio explained. It is then transferred to a carbonation tank, where it is infused with CO2. In photobio reactors, it switches from “growth mode,” he said, to “production mode.”
An extraction unit separates water and foam containing oil and biomass fragments. Algae cells can be extracted at this point and broken open, he said, to produce oil.
Different types of algaes produce different types of oil, he said, like omega oils for medical production, versus triglycerides for biodeisel.
Thus far, Bard has not used any genetically-modified algae strains, Clerecuzio stated, allowing the company to bypass government regulatory requirements for synthetically modified organisms.
Other naturally-occurring sources of oil have not proven as efficient as algae, he said.
Soybeans, for instance, he pointed out, yield a large amount of oil, but there is comparatively less oil to be harvested from each bean. Therefore a considerable amount of biomaterial must be processed.
When considering gallons of oil per acre, algae brings a much higher yield, he said.
Fish are also problematic oil source, he pointed out, because with these living organisms come diseased and allergies that can be passed from animal to animal.