Aquaflow: next-gen biofuels a commercial reality

Positive news this week from the Nelson-based algae company Aquaflow whose fortunes we have followed on Hot Topic over the past three years. I last reported on them in August 2011, when they had signed an agreement for joint testing and evaluation with Texas-based CRI Catalyst Company (CRI). Now they have announced a full technology cooperation agreement with that company which they believe leaves them poised to make refining next generation biofuels a commercial reality in New Zealand and in overseas projects within the two to three years it takes to build a refinery.

That’s big news if it comes to fruition. Director Nick Gerritsen says: “We should be able to produce renewable hydrocarbon fuel that is equivalent to fossil fuel at a cost that is highly competitive with the current per barrel price of crude oil.” He adds that New Zealand could turn its biomass into enough carbon-neutral biofuel to meet its renewable fuels requirement within ten years.

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Aquaflow in Multi-Biomass Venture

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. Continue reading “Aquaflow in Multi-Biomass Venture”

New developments for two companies.

We’ve frequently reported on the progress of NZ company Carbonscape (follow the Carbonscape tag) which makes charcoal using a microwave process. They’ve just announced what they describe as a world first in the production of the highly porous charcoal known as Activated Carbon (AC).

“Using its patented continuous-flow microwave technology, Carbonscape™ has produced high-grade and highly-valuable AC in a single processing step using waste pine sawdust.”

What makes it special is the fact that the normal method of production involves many stages of processing and uses relatively exotic materials to open up the tiny pores between carbon atoms. Director and CEO Tim Langley says:

“We have replaced a slow and complex process using exotic materials with a fast, single process using pine sawdust and created a 60% improvement in quality. We have applied for patents. The potential world market for this technology is vast. Each year demand is rising by about 5%. It’s a whole new world.”

Activated Carbon has many uses, but of particular interest in relation to climate change is its potential to massively reduce the emissions from large, single sources of carbon dioxide, such as power stations. AC placed in flue gases can absorb carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere.

Professor Chris Turney is a director of Carbonscape. He says of the announcement:

“This is just the start. We’re now exploring the potential of other waste types for producing Activated Carbon to identify whether they are best for absorbing carbon dioxide or for other applications. It’s an incredibly exciting time.”

Incidentally, Chris Turney, author of Ice, Mud and Blood (reviewed here), and co-author of a recent paper on temperatures and sea level in the last inter-glacial reported here on Hot Topic, is going to be working with fellow scientist Dr Chris Fogwill on the Atlantic-facing part of West Antarctic Ice Sheet during January 2011 investigating how West Antarctica has responded to temperature changes in the recent geological past. He has an interesting account on his blog. We’ll try to keep in touch with any findings.

On the same day as the Carbonscape news another New Zealand company Aquaflow, whose development we have also frequently reported on Hot Topic (follow the Aquaflow tag), made an announcement of a significant advance in their algal technology. They have developed twenty high value chemicals from wild algae. Director Nick Gerritson says the breakthrough shows once again the equivalence of Aquaflow green crude to fossil crude and its diversity of products. He says their technology can now be demonstrated to not only create clean, renewable fuels and to remediate wastewater but also produce high value chemicals.

Both algal and charcoal technologies are the subject of considerable debate and their future is not clear. But it is obviously important that any technologies which could assist the transition away from fossil fuels are thoroughly explored. We may take pleasure in the thought that these two small New Zealand companies are ploughing on with their ventures and wish them well in their respective breakthroughs.

US trial for Aquaflow technology

Blenheim company Aquaflow which works on the production of bio-fuel from algae, and whose progress Hot Topic has reported on several times (follow the Aquaflow tag) has announced a new venture, this time in the US. They will be working with a Honeywell company at an industrial site in Hopewell, Virginia. The aim of the project, supported by a $1.5 million cooperative agreement with the US Department of Energy, is to capture CO2 from exhaust stacks and use it to enhance algae growth in nutrient wastewater from the manufacturing facility.

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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.