ISSN 1329-7759
RSWA Proceedings

November 2011

This publication should be catalogued under "Proceed...
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Rswa nov 2011 proceeding

  1. 1. ISSN 1329-7759 RSWA Proceedings November 2011 ATTENTION LIBRARIANS: This publication should be catalogued under "Proceedings of the Royal Society of Western Australia" Biofuels  from  algae  in  Western  Australia:  From  the  Lab  to  the  pilot   plant  and  beyond   Professor  Michael  A.  Borowitzka:    Algae  R&D  Center,  Murdoch  University     The  imminence  of  Peak  Oil  as  well  as  global  warming  due  to  anthropogenic  CO2  emissions   has  led  to  great  activity  to  develop  environmentally  sustainable  renewable  sources  of  energy.   Algae  are  seen  as  one  of  the  best  sources  of  renewable  liquid  fuels  (i.e.  biodiesel  and   bioethanol)  as  they  have  lipid  productivities  which  are  5-­‐10  times  greater  than  alternative  oil   seed  crops  such  as  canola  and  oil  palms,  and  because  they  can  be  grown  on  land  unsuitable   for  agriculture  using  saline  water.  Western  Australia  is  especially  well  suited  for  algae  culture   for  biofuels  because  of  regions  with  high  sunshine,  large  areas  of  flat  land  and  many  suitable   water  sources.  However,  before  algal  fuels  become  a  reality  many  problems  have  to  be   resolved,  especially  the  high  cost  of  algae  production.     Our  research  at  Murdoch  University  over  the  last  20  years  has  led  to  the  isolation  and   characterisation  of  a  number  of  elite  strains  of  local  microalgae  well  suited  for   commercial-­‐scale  culture  for  biofuels.  Together  with  colleagues  from  the  University  of   Adelaide  we  have  been  trialing  these  algae  in  outdoor  ponds  in  Perth  to  select  the  best  strain   and  to  optimise  culture  conditions  for  the  production  of  lipids  which  are  the  feedstock  for   biodiesel  production.  We  have  also  been  developing  efficient,  low  cost  methods  of  harvesting   and  dewatering  the  algae  and  for  the  extraction  of  the  lipids.  Our  results  show  very  high   productivities  over  the  whole  year  under  Perth  climatic  conditions.     In  November  2010  we  commissioned  the  first  Australian  algae  biofuels  pilot  plant  in   Karratha,  next  to  the  Rio  Tinto  Yurrila  Maya  Power  station.  The  pilot  plant  allows  the  testing   and  optimisation  of  the  algae  under  the  optimum  climatic  conditions  of  the  Pilbara  at  a  scale   that  will  allow  actual  production  costs  for  a  production  plant  to  be  determined  and  a  fully   commercial  process  to  be  developed.  The  Pilbara  has  many  advantages  for  commercial  scale   algae  biofuels  production  and  an  American  company,  Aurora  Algae,  have  also  established  a   pilot  plant  there  recently.       This  talk  will  cover  the  journey  from  the  lab  to  the  pilot  plant  and  beyond  and  our  findings   and  the  future  challenges  to  developing  this  new  industry  for  Western  Australia.  
  2. 2. REPORT  FROM  THE  RSWA    ANNUAL  GENERAL   MEETING  2011   The Royal Society of Western Australia’s 2011 Annual General Meeting was held on Monday 18th July in the Webb Lecture Theatre at the University of Western Australia. The meeting was preceded by refreshments, giving the medallists and their guests an opportunity to meet councillors, members and each other. The meeting was officially opened by the President, Dr Lynne Milne, at 7.30 pm. The Minutes of the 20102011 AGM were presented and accepted. The President briefly explained why a formal election for the 2011-2012 Council was being held, why it had been delayed and that the Electoral Commission had now been engaged to conduct the election. The main points of the upcoming Constitution ballot were summarised. The President then presented the Annual Report that will shortly be available in full on the new RSWA website ( She reported another successful year of events that included the exceptionally well-attended Kimberley Coast and Marine Symposium and the Journal issue dedicated to it. Another highlight of the year was the successful application for a Lottery West Grant to establish and pay for a new website for three years, and the development of the website. The President thanked all councillors for their contribution to the success of the year, in particular the hardworking editorial group, Professor Lyn Beazley for her contribution as Vice-Patron, the WA Museum for housing the Society’s Library and the Board of the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority and The School of Earth and Environment at UWA for providing venues for meetings. retire as President at the AGM, but continued to preside over Council until the 2011-2013 Council was elected, was followed by further refreshments. NEW  MEMBERS  OF  THE  SOCIETY   It  is  required  by  the  constitution  that  the   names  of  new  members  of  the  RSWA  are   published  in  the  Proceedings.     Ordinary Members Dr Dean Thorburn Dr Mike Cappo Dr Danny Rogers Mr Jonathan Davies Ms Jane Fyfe Dr Brett Maloney Ms Linda Villiers Ms Nimue Pendragon Ms Lynette Howearth Student Medallists and Postgraduate Student Symposium Presenters. Both the medalists and the presenters are traditionally awarded a one year membership. STUDENT MEDALLISTS Ms Alicia Sutton Ms Linette Umbrello Ms Stephanie Austin Ms Vanessa Stylianou Mr Eric Law The treasurer in presenting his report showed a surplus for the year that this time but noted that this was a false surplus as monies from the Kimberley Symposium have to be returned to WAMSI and a number of invoices are outstanding. The president then presented the new RSWA Brochure developed by Council member J Wege and called on Dr Phil O’Brien to launch the new website that he had worked so hard to bring to fruition. The student medals and certificates were presented by councillor Prof Kate Wright, Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research Training (Research and Development), Curtin University. The Presidential Address, Grains of Truth: Pollen in the forensic arena was delivered by Dr Lynne Milne who was due to         POSTGRADUATE SYMPOSIUM PRESENTERS Ms Leigh Shepherd Ms Desiree Moon Ms Nannapat Natchakumlasap Mr James Tweedley Ms Maggie Triska Ms Anais Pages Mr Daniel McDonald Ms Tian Rui Mr Umar Farooq Mrs Shari Gallop Mr Martin Paesold Ms XiXi Li Ms Ailene Tawang Ms Jessie Moniodis Ms Hazel Gaza Ms Xiangling Fang Mr Siddhartha S Verma Mr Xinjjiang Zhu
  3. 3. PRESENTATION  OF  RSWA  STUDENT  MEDALS     Each  year  the  RSWA  awards  a  student   medal  to  the  student  with  the  highest   aggregate  score  in  their  undergraduate   degree  from  each  of  the  WA  universities.     The  students  are  nominated  by  their   university.    The  medals  were  presented  to   the  students  at  this  years  AGM  by  Prof  Kate   Wright,  Associate  Deputy  Vice  Chancellor,   Research  and  Training,  Curtin  University         Alicia  Sutton,  Murdoch  University.     Linette  Umbrello  UWA     Stephanie  Austin  Curtin  University.     Eric  Law  Notre  Dame.         Vanessa  Stylianou,  Edith  Cowan  University   (Vanessa’s  father  accepted  the  medal  on  her   behalf).         DEVONIAN  REEF  COMPLEXES  OF  THE   CANNING  BASIN,  WESTERN  AUSTRALIA     This  talk  was  given  by  Tony  Cockbain  in   November  2010,  on  behalf  of  Phil  Playford   who  was  unable  to  attend  the  meeting.  The   talk  was  based  on  a  selection  of    slides   prepared  by  Phil;  a  small  summary  of  the   talk  was  published  in  the  December  2010   Proceedings.  This  abstract  is  taken  from   GSWA  Bulletin  145  with  the  above  title.    ]   This  article  with  larger  figures  can  be   downloaded  from  the  RSWA  website  at       The  bulletin  can  also  be  purchased  from   Mineral  House  for  $77.     ABSTRACT   Middle   and   Upper   Devonian   (Givetian,   Frasnian,   and   Famennian)   reef   complexes   are   spectacularly   exposed   on   the   Lennard   Shelf,   along   the   northern   margin   of   the   Canning   Basin.   They   form   a   belt   of   rugged   limestone  ranges,  some  350   km   long   and   up   to   50   km   wide,   that   is   commonly   known   as   the   ‘Devonian   Great   Barrier   Reef’.   The   reef    
  4. 4. metres   deep.   The   back-­‐reef   areas   ranged   from   supratidal   to   subtidal,   with   estimated   water   depths   of   up   to   10   m.   Cyclicity   is   evident  in  many  of  the  back-­‐reef  deposits     complexes   form   a   northwest-­‐trending   barrier-­‐reef   system,   composed   of   fringing   reefs,  atolls,  and  banks,  that  grew  along  the   mountainous   mainland   shore   of   the   Kimberley  block  and  around  rugged  islands   of   Proterozoic   igneous   and   metamorphic   rocks.   One   reef   complex   grew   on   a   fault   block  of  Ordovician  dolomite  and  shale.  The   maximum   thickness   of   the   Devonian   rocks   is   estimated   to   be   at   least   2500m.   In   some   areas   the   reef   complexes   are   cut   by   normal   faults,   some   of   which   moved   during   the   Devonian,   with   associated   tilting   and   folding,   but   over   large   areas   the   Devonian   rocks   remained   almost   undeformed.   Conglomerates,   that   interfinger   with   or  pass   through   the   reef   complexes,   were   derived   from  the  scarps  of  active  faults  in  adjoining   Precambrian   basement   rocks.   Movement   along   some   faults   continued   during   the   Carboniferous,   but   since   then   there   has   been  little  or  no  faulting  in  the  area.       Three  main  facies  are  recognized  in  the  reef   complexes:   platform,   marginal-­‐slope,   and   basin   facies.   The   reefal   platforms,   which   stood  tens  to  hundreds  of  metres  above  the   adjacent   sea   floor,   were   constructed   by   shallow-­‐water   organisms,   especially   stromatoporoids,   corals,   and   microbes.   Many   platforms   were   rimmed   by   rigid   wave-­‐resistant   reefs.   The   platform   facies   is   subdivided   into   reef-­‐margin,   reef-­‐flat,   pinnacle   reef,   and   back-­‐reef   subfacies.   Where   no   reef   is   developed   around   a   platform  margin,  the  platform  is  regarded  as   a  bank  and  its  deposits  as  bank  sub  facies.     Fig 1: Geological map of the Devonian reef complexes.   The   platform   deposits   were   laid   down   essentially   horizontally,   in   shallow   subtidal   to   intertidal   and   supratidal   environments.   The  reef-­‐margin  and  reef-­‐flat  deposits  were   mainly  formed  in  shallow  water  depths,  but   in   some   places   the   reef   grew   in   water   estimated   to   have   been   up   to   a   few   tens   of   Fig 2: Morphology diagram of the reef complexes.       Marginal-­‐slope   deposits   were   laid   down   on   slopes  in  front  of  the  platforms,  descending   to   water   depths   of   up   to   several   hundred   metres.   The   marginal-­‐slope   facies   in   front   of   a   reefal   platform   is   subdivided   into   reefal-­‐ slope   and   fore-­‐reef   subfacies.   Where   the   platform   is   a   bank   the   slope   deposits   are   regarded  as  fore-­‐bank  facies.       Reef-­‐margin   and   reef-­‐flat   boundstones   and   back-­‐reef   biostromes   were   built   by   microbes,   stromatoporoids,   and   corals   during   the   late   Givetian   and   early   Frasnian,   microbes   and   stromatoporoids   during   the   late   Frasnian,   and   microbes   alone   in   the   Famennian.   The   reefal-­‐slope   subfacies   consists   of   microbial   boundstone   that   accreted   at   the   tops   of   the   marginal   slopes.   The  reefal-­‐slope  deposits  show  depositional   dips   ranging   from   nearly   vertical   to   about   40°,  and  they  pass  downwards  into  fore-­‐reef   subfacies.     The   fore-­‐reef   deposits   consist   largely   of   platform-­‐derived   debris,   and   include   debris   flows   and   isolated   allochthonous   blocks   of   reef,   together   with   indigenous   fossil   organisms   and   terrigenous   clastic   material.   Depositional   dips   in   the   fore-­‐reef   subfacies   decline  progressively  from  about  40°  at  the   top   of   a   slope   to   a   few   degrees   at   the   foot,   where   the   fore-­‐reef   subfacies   interfingers   with   basin   facies.   Fore-­‐bank   deposits   generally   lack   steep   depositional   dips,   and   they  interfinger  directly  with  bank  deposits   at  the  top  of  the  slope  and  with  basin  facies   at  the  base.       The   basin   facies,   which   was   laid   down   essentially   horizontally   in   water   depths   from   a   few   tens   to   several   hundreds   metres,   consists  largely  of  calcareous  shale,  siltstone   and   sandstone,   with   some   interbedded  
  5. 5. turbidites   and   debris-­‐flow   limestones.   Most   basin   deposits   have   undergone   major   post-­‐ burial   mechanical   compaction   (up   to   about   75%).     Fig 3: Classic face at Windjana Gorge.       The   reef   complexes   range   in   age   from   Middle   Devonian   (late   Givetian)   to   Late   Devonian   (Frasnian   and   Famennian).   Most   exposed   reefs   are   Frasnian   and   Famennian   in   age.   The   most   precise   dating   of   the   reef   complexes   is   based   on   conodonts   and   ammonoids   in   basin   and   marginal-­‐slope   deposits.   Conodonts   are   absent   and   ammonoids   are   rare   in   platform   deposits.   Two   second-­‐order   sequences   are   recognised   in   the   reef   complexes:   the   Givetian-­‐Frasnian   Pillara   Sequence   and   the   Famennian   Nullara   Sequence.   The   boundary   between   them   is   a   unconformity   in   platform   and   upper   marginal-­‐slope   deposits   and   a   conformity   in   deeper   marginal-­‐slope   and   basin   deposits.   The   fall   in   sea   level   that   caused   this   unconformity   is   estimated   to   have   been   about   50   m.   The   Frasnian-­‐ Famennian   boundary   marks   the   culmination   of   a   global   mass   extinction   of   metazoan   organisms   that   apparently   began   during  the  late  Frasnian.  Microbes  survived   the   mass   extinction   virtually   unscathed.   Among   those   microbes,   Renalcis   is   especially   prominent   as   a   reef   builder   in   both   Frasnian   and   Famennian   platforms,   but   non-­‐skeletal   microbes   were   even   more   important  as  reef  builders.     Deep-­‐water   stromatolites   are   conspicuous   features   of   some   marginal-­‐slope   deposits,   above   and   just   below   the   Frasnian-­‐ Famennian   boundary.   They   may   have   thrived   at   that   time   because   the   extinction   event   removed   metazoans   that   would   otherwise   have   consumed   the   stromatolite-­‐ building  microbes.       The   rigid   early-­‐cemented   reef-­‐margin   and   reef-­‐flat   limestones   were   subjected   to   fissuring   in   response   to   earthquake   shaking,   slippage   along   underlying   marginal-­‐slope   deposits,   and   differential   compaction   of   underlying   basin   deposits   over   basement   topography.   The   fissures   were   filled   with   sediment,   calcite   cement,   and   organic   growths,   forming   networks   of   neptunian   dykes.   Masses   of   terrigenous   conglomerate   interfinger  with  and  extend  through  the  reef   complexes   at   various   localities   along   the   outcrop   belt.   They   are   highstand   deposits   that   interfinger   with   platform,   marginal-­‐ slope,   and   basin   deposits   and   were   laid   down   as   alluvial-­‐fan,   fan-­‐delta,   and   submarine-­‐fan   deposits   in   front   of   the   scarps   of   active   faults.   Large   volumes   of   sand  and  mud  poured  into  basins  adjoining   the   conglomerate   bodies,   so   that   the   resulting   basin   deposits   are   largely   terrigenous.     The   area   was   subjected   to   glaciation   by   continental   ice   sheets   during   the   Late   Carboniferous   and   Early   Permian.   The   erosive   action   of   the   ice   sheets   and   associated   subglacial   water   had   profound   effects   on   the   Devonian   rocks.   The   tops   of   the   limestone   ranges   were   planed   off   by   ‘dirty’   ice   and   were   extensively   karstified   by   the   corrosive   action   of   subglacial   water   under   high   pressures   and   sub-­‐zero   temperatures.  Major  cave  systems  formed  in   the  limestones  at  that  time.     Economic   deposits   of   zinc   and   lead   sulfides   have  been  mined  in  several  places  along  the   reef  belt,  mainly  in  the  southeastern  part,  at   Pillara,   Cadjebut,   and   Goongewa.   These   deposits   are   thought   to   have   been   carried   into   the   Devonian   limestones   by   hot   fluids   expelled   from   shales   deep   in   the   Fitzroy   Trough.   They   follow   faults   and   hydrothermal   caverns   in   the   limestones.   The   age   of   this   epigenetic   mineralization   is   Early  Carboniferous  (Tournaisian).     Small   oilfields   have   been   located   in   late   Famennian   reef   limestone   and   overlying   deposits   in   the   subsurface   of   the   northwestern   Lennard   Shelf.   The   Famennian   reef   margin   has   been   well   defined   in   this   area   through   conventional   seismic   surveys.   Although   Frasnian   reef   complexes  are  known  from  drilling  to  occur   below   the   Famennian   carbonate   rocks   in   this   area,   their   detailed   distribution   cannot   be  delineated  by  such  surveys.  It  is  believed   that   Frasnian   reef   complexes   have   the   best   prospects  for  future  oil  discoveries,  and  it  is  
  6. 6. likely   that   they   can   be   successfully   delineated  using  3-­‐D  seismic  techniques.   Fig 4: Napier Range at Windjana Gorge.       Distribution  of  the  RSWA  Proceedings   In   common   with   every   other   society,   the   RSWA   is   facing   financial   constraints   due   to   declining   membership   and   increasing   costs.     So   that   we   can   continue   to   provide   the   events   and   excursions   enjoyed  by  our  members  at  little  or  no  costs  to  our  members  we  have  to  cut  costs  wherever  possible.     Traditionally   we   have   printed   and   mailed   the   Proceedings   to   our   members.     This   costs   us   approx   $7,000   per   annum,   money   that   could   be   put   to   better   use.     It   has   therefore   been   decided   by   Council   that  in  order  to  save  the  costs  associated  with  printing  and  mailing,  the  Proceedings  will  be  delivered   by   email.     If   a   hard   copy   is   required   the   Proceedings   can   be   printed   out.     For   those   members   for   whom   we   do   not   have   a   valid   email   address   we   will   continue   to   post   the   Proceedings.     This   will   take   effect   from  December  2011.   Philip  O’Brien,  President  RSWA     RSWA  Christmas  Event     This  year’s  RSWA  Christmas  event  will  be  tours  of  the  new   state  of  the  art  WA  Conservation  Science   Centre   in   Technology   Park   off   Hayman   Rd.   in   Kensington   at   the   Department   of   Environment   and   Conservation.     A   map   is   available   at.     In   addition   to   housing   the   WA   Herbarium   and   Science   Division   research   laboratories,   this   facility   also   houses   the   nation’s   largest   purpose   built   seed   bank.     Find   out   about   the   various   research   programs   conducted  at  the  centre  and  the  role  of  the  WA  Herbarium  in  conservation  of  the  unique  plant  species   found   in   WA.     This   event   will   take   place   on   the   7th   Dec.     Tours   of   the   facility,   including   the   newly   established  planter  boxes  featuring  an  interesting  selection  of  WA  native  plants  will  start  from  4.30  pm   with  a  BBQ  to  follow.    We  ask  that  people  bring  a  plate  of  salad,  desert  or  nibbles  to  share  and  their   own  drinks.    The  RSWA  will  provide  the  meat.         RSWA  FUNCTIONS     Date Time Venue Event November 21st 7.00 pm King’s Park Administration building Prof. M Borowitzka, Algal Biofuels. December 7th 4.30 pm WA Conservation Science Centre Xmas function. Royal Society of Western Australia Disclaimer. -The Royal Society works to maintain up-to-date information from reliable sources; however, no liability is accepted for any errors or omissions or the results of any actions based upon this information. Links to other websites - the RSWA does not necessarily endorse the views expressed on these websites, nor does it guarantee the accuracy or of any information presented there. It should also be noted that other sites linked from the Proceedings may use cookies that track visitors. Safety - safety is an important concern in all indoor and outdoor activities. When attending an RSWA function or excursion, the RSWA cannot anticipate the limitations of every participant or alert you to every hazard. As such, you are required to assume responsibility for own safety at all times.