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July 20, 2019

Japanese startup Euglena aims to produce biofuel for Tokyo Olympics

PUBLISHED : July 05, 2019 - 14:32

UPDATED : July 05, 2019 - 14:32

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TOKYO -- Japanese biotechnology startup Euglena aims to shift its main business model from focusing on producing health care products to biofuels.

“We hope to produce biofuel for jet planes that will be used during the Tokyo Summer Olympics next year,” Euglena Biofuel Business Manager Tstsu Kou said during an interview session, provided by the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat for Journalists.

 

Euglena Biofuel Business Manager Tstsu Kou
Song Seung-hyun/The Investor



In October last year, the Japanese startup finished establishing a biofuel production factory, which began construction in June 2018. The company will be using the liquid within euglena as feedstock for biofuel. Euglena is a single-celled-organism, which has both plant and animal characteristics that are often found in both fresh and sea waters. According to the company, euglena is also one of the superfoods, with more than 59 different types of nutrition.

Euglena is the first company that has succeeded in outdoor mass cultivation of euglena. The startup will start running the factory from this month and hopes to produce euglena-based biofuel for planes in 2020, it said.




Established in August 2005, Euglena’s sales last year reached $133 million. The startup currently earns more than 99 percent of its sales from producing euglena food and health products.

“Producing euglena biofuel is cheaper compared to biofuels that are produced from other materials like coconuts, corns or beans,” Kou said. He also noted that euglena is not commonly consumed as food so it has less ethical issues for use as biofuels.

“Now in Japan, most people acknowledge euglena and do not feel offensive about using it,” Kou said. Besides the food business, the company believes that now is the time to also focus on researching and developing euglena for biofuel usage.

Moreover, according to the Japanese government-led Green-oil Japan project, biofuel usage in the country will increase from 125 kiloliters in 2018 to 1 million kl by 2030. Especially due to the Paris Agreement on climate change, in which Japan committed to cut its emissions by 26 percent by 2030 compared with 2013, the company expects that the demand will naturally increase in the future.

“It is true that the current biofuel costs are high, but in the future when the cost of other fossil fuels rises, we see that biofuel prices will be at similar levels. So, we can become more competitive,” he said.

The company, nevertheless, still added that during the development stage it is crucial to have some support from the government. “We currently do not get any grants for developing euglena, but we are hoping for some in the future,” Kou said.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)

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