Nelson-based algae company Aquaflow, whose progress we have reported on frequently in past posts has announced another engagement with an overseas company. This time it has signed a major agreement with Texas-based CRI Catalyst Company, a provider of catalyst and process technology to the global renewable fuel market.
The focus of this partnership is on a multi-biomass approach, mixing algae with cellulosic feedstocks to produce petrol, diesel and jet biofuels which are ready for use in the existing transport system. The algae, with their unique chemical qualities, add value to cellulosic biofuels.
They will be using a technology developed at the Illinois-based Gas Technology Institute (GTI) for which CRI has acquired exclusive global sublicensing rights. It’s called Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion (IH2) and it cost-effectively converts biomass directly into renewable gasoline, jet and diesel hydrocarbon blendstocks. This recent report on the Green Car Congress website is a useful brief account of the process, and the GTI website also contains information.
The intention is explained by Aquaflow director Nick Gerritson:
“Initially, we’ll focus on setting up a demonstration facility, most likely in the USA, and from this base we will expand into the project opportunities currently in the Aquaflow pipeline – across a number of geographies.”
Aquaflow is a small company, and it may have seemed unlikely that algae from the Blenheim sewage ponds were going to make much of a contribution to the world’s biofuel supplies. But the partnerships Aquaflow is establishing with big overseas operations point to the value that a small company’s research can bring to those working on a larger scale. Knowledge can be a thriving export industry for a small country, and the whole field of renewable energy is likely to be full of opportunities. Would that the government supplied as much support for that possibility as it is anxious to offer for oil exploration. For that matter, there’s no reason why plants producing biofuels can’t be built here, offering a much more productive and long-lasting industry than the extraction of the last deposits of oil.
The multi-biomass approach to biofuel production is an interesting one to watch. Gerritson comments of the agreement with CRI:
“We have been working on this multi-biomass view for four years. We have steadily built up a leading reputation and respect and there is significant complementary value in our approaches which means that a partnership makes commercial sense for both.”
Incidentally it’s interesting to note that CRI is part of the Shell Group. Imagine the boost the resources of the oil companies might bring to renewable energy development if they recognised the damage the further development of oil extraction will do to the climate and turned their attention to more positive directions.