DSM and Evonik to build $200m US plant for salmon feed targeted algae oil

'With the first plant we plan to build, 15% of the current demand for EPA and DHA can be met.' © istock

DSM and Evonik, as part of a newly announced 50-50 joint venture, are set to build a $200m facility in the US to produce their omega-3 fatty acid product from marine microalgae.

Initially the target sectors for the algae oil, a “highly concentrated” source of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), will be salmon feed and pet food.

However, DSM and Evonik said they are also pursuing applications in other aquatic and terrestrial animal species for the algae oil, in which the EPA and DHA content is "more than 50% by weight."

The Dutch and German companies said the facility will come on stream in 2019. It will be built on an existing Evonik site in the US. 

As global supplies of fish oil remain static or decline and demand for aqua feed grows over the next decade, so too does the need to find alternative sources of DHA and EPA for use in salmon and trout diets.

Worldwide fish oil production is approximately 1m metric tons per year. Most of the fish oil is used in aquaculture, mainly for fat-rich fish species, such as salmon. The limited wild fish stocks restrict the amount of fish oil available and thus the growth of the aquaculture industry. Currently, that sector uses about 75% of the annual production of fish oil. 

Sheenagh Matthews, a spokesperson for Evonik, told us:

“With the first plant we plan to build, 15% of the current demand for EPA and DHA can be met. That is a significant proportion for a new and innovative technology that hasn’t yet been produced at a commercial scale.

“The next step is to build that capacity and get it up and running successfully. Evonik continuously works to improve its production and processes and this will be the case with EPA and DHA too.”

Evonik and DSM will co-own the production facility. Each company will invest around US$100m in the manufacturing plant over a two-year period.

Their joint venture, which will be called Veramaris and headquartered in the Netherlands, is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

The JV is a continuation of the initial agreement DSM and Evonik signed off on in July 2015.

They then aligned to develop the marine algae oil, the manufacturing process involved and to probe commercial opportunities, engaging a wide range of stakeholders in the process from fish feed producers, fish farmers and retailers.

DSM and Evonik said they already produce pilot-scale quantities of the algal oil at DSM’s production facility in Kingstree, South Carolina. “Customers will be able to receive sizeable quantities of the product for market development while the construction of the new manufacturing plant is underway.”

Industry first

Last November, Evy Vikene, manager special projects at Skretting, Nutreco’s fish feed division, described the oil as an industry first: "It provides both microalgae derived DHA and EPA, the only fish oil alternative on the market to do so, with both of those nutrients in high concentrations. In addition, it is the only fish oil fatty acid replacement, so far, that is delivered as an oil. And it is much better to add oil to a feed than biomass, from a nutritional perspective."

As a joint partner in the project with DSM and Evonik, she said Skretting tested the marine microalgae oil in terms of digestibility, absorption, fish health and growth. "It is equivalent to fish oil in terms of digestibility, and we saw that the DHA and EPA is fully absorbed," said Vikene.

The algal oil is approved for use in the EU, added the fish feed manufacturer.

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