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Message from the board chairperson

理事長 井上 勳

Isao Inoue,
the board chairperson

 The potential of shale gas, methane hydrate, and other new energy resources has recently been reported. However, these are fossil fuel resources that will be exhausted during the course of time. In addition, it is said that the mining of shale gas involves water pollution. In long term, transition to renewable energy is indispensable. Biomass is paid attention to in renewable energies because “only biomass can provide liquid fuel.” Liquid fuel is much higher than a battery in energy density and it is easy to store and transport. Liquid fuel is indispensable for large transports’, including airplanes, now and in the future. Hydrocarbon derived from biomass is also essential to substitute materials for chemical products.
 Energy development using the first generation of biomass (e.g., soybean and sugarcane) resulted in international criticism because the development led to an increase in the price of grains. The second generation of biomass (e.g., oil palm and forest resources) is fated to be opposed to food crops production in land use. In the circumstances, algae biomass attracts attention because its potential of producing oil is higher than terrestrial oil-crops  by ten- to hundred-fold, and it does not require crop land for cultivation.

 Since recent years, efforts to develop algae energy have been spreading worldwide. Even the United States, which will become the largest shale gas producing nation, is expanding its investments. Research and development are promoted as national projects in European and Asian countries. In Japan, the promotion is not always strategic although many projects are ongoing.
To establish algae industry, it is necessary to integrate knowledge and technology in various fields: from basic biology to technological development of cultivation, concentration, harvest, refinement, etc. in plant scale and application development of extracted oil. Algae Industry Incubation Consortium, Japan, which was established in 2010, conducted a feasibility study of “sixth sector industrialization” of algae with support from the project by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 2011. From a national perspective, we studied the challenges to create an algae industry and made an inclusive roadmap of technological development for the first time in Japan, and received a lot of appreciation and response.

 Although the consortium has become the largest organization in Japan, it still lacks in power. To proceed to the next step, the consortium shifted to non-profitable general incorporated association on April 1, 2013 to build a basis to act from a socially responsible position. A 3 year large scale technological development project aiming at comprehensive utilization of native algae biomass is underway as Fukushima’s next generation renewable energy technological development project.
 Although worldwide movement to incubate algae industry is clearly reaching a new phase, Japan is still in the stage of basic research and primary technological development. The intends to contribute to the development of algae industry in Japan by providing technologies and mediating joint studies and development of member companies. At the same time, the consortium tries to contribute to solve mankind’s common subject, the energy problem, by international cooperation and coordination. I sincerely ask members to actively provide remarks and suggestions to create an algae industry.