Aquaflow’s NZ tech impresses China

Time for an update on Aquaflow, the Blenheim algae company we have frequently covered on Hot Topic this year. Things continue to look promising for it in the world outside NZ. Its discussions with overseas companies have resulted in a contract with Greenleaf Environmental of Chengdu City, Sichuan Province in China to investigate suitable sites in China for Aquaflow’s technology.

It’s quite a breakthrough. Sichuan is a leading clean technology centre and Aquaflow thinks it is the first company of its kind to move into the region. Greenleaf for its part is impressed by the two-fold function of the Aquaflow technology — remediating contaminated water, and producing green crude oil from the algae which infest the waters.

Aquaflow director Nick Gerritsen reports “amazing” unsolicited interest in recent months and the company is now evaluating more than 40 project opportunities across four continents, not including license and manufactured sales interest.

“The level of interest is mind boggling. We believe it’s because Aquaflow sits slap-dab on the cusp of two of the most fundamental issues that the world faces – fresh water and renewable fuels and chemicals.”

So far as the fuels and chemicals’ economics are concerned, the advantage for the Aquaflow process is its use of naturally-occurring wastewater algae which require no introduced elements such as extra CO2 and the fact that it uses existing infrastructure rather than building high rate ponds or intensive bio-reactor systems. The yield is lower but so are the costs.

The initial Hot Topic post on Aquaflow is here. Updates followed here, here and here.

2 thoughts on “Aquaflow’s NZ tech impresses China”

  1. While this piece in Nature Biotechnology in Jan 2009 does not mention Aquaflow, it does attempt to present a realistic view of progress in the heavily hyped field of algal biofuels. Dr John Benemann is a leading authority on algal biofuels. In a position paper (PDF) written for the FAO in 2008 he summarized his view as follows:

    The cultivation of microalgae for biofuels in general and oil production in particular is not yet a commercial reality and, outside some niche, but significant, applications in wastewater treatment, still requires relatively long-term R&D, with emphasis currently more on the R rather than the D. This is due in part to the high costs of even simple algae production systems (e.g. open, unlined ponds), and in even larger part to the undeveloped nature of the required algal mass culture technology, from the selection and maintenance of algal strains in the cultivation systems, to achievement of high productivities of biomass with a high content of vegetable oils, or other biofuel precursors.

    So in summary – lots of sizzle but little sign of the steak – so far at least.

  2. Yes your right about the sizzle and no sausage. The claims made by the company and especially Nick Gerritsen are pure fantasy – the company was going to supply aviation fuel for a much publicized test flight about 3 years ago but that did not happen. They found it was very difficult and totally uneconomic to make biofuel from wild algae. They have made only minute sample quantities of bio-crude and have no viable commercial process.The company then made a series of exaggerated claims about it water remediation process that has also faltered. Every time the company receives an inquiry from an interested party a press release is generated making various exaggerated claims – many companies have looked at their so called process but have walked a way. Latterly the company has lost most of its staff they seek more secure positions.

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