World’s First Sample Of Bio-Diesel From Algae
Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation
May 11, 2006. 8.00 a.m.
Marlborough Company Produces World’s First Sample Of Bio-Diesel From Algae Extracted From Region’s Sewerage Ponds
Marlborough-based Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation announced today that it had produced its first sample of home-grown bio-diesel fuel with algae sourced from local sewerage ponds.
“We believe this is the world’s first commercial production of bio-diesel from algae outside the laboratory, in ‘wild’ conditions. To date, bio-diesel from algae has only been tested under controlled laboratory conditions with specially selected and grown algae crops,” explains Aquaflow spokesperson Barrie Leay.
Bio-diesel could eventually become a sustainable, low cost, cleaner burning fuel alternative for New Zealand, powering family cars, trucks, buses and boats. It can also be used for other purposes such as heating or distributed electricity generation.
The breakthrough comes after technology start-up, Aquaflow, formed an agreement late last year with Marlborough District Council to undertake a pilot to extract algae from its excess pond discharge.
Algae are the simplest plant organisms that convert sunlight and carbon dioxide in the air around us, into stored energy through the well understood process of photosynthesis. Although the exact bio-diesel manufacturing technology is a well-guarded secret, the process involves processing the algae pulp before extracting lipid oil which is turned into bio-diesel.
“Although algae are good at taking most of the nutrients and chemicals out of sewage, too much algae can taint the water and make it smell. So, councils have to find a way of cleaning up the excess algae in their outflow and recycling the waste product. And that’s where Aquaflow comes in,” says Leay.
By taking the waste product, Aquaflow can create bio-diesel and remove a problem for councils by producing useful clean water, a process known as bio-remediation. Dairy farmers, and many food processors too, could also benefit from recycling their waste streams that algae thrives in.
Blended with conventional mineral diesel, bio-diesel could run vehicles without the need for vehicle modifications. It would also help to meet the New Zealand Government B5 (5% blended) fuel targets by 2008 moving up to B20 as bio-fuel production increases.
Aquaflow was formed in October 2005 and its major shareholders are technology start-up expert, Nick Gerritsen; and successful renewable energy developers Vicki Buck and Barrie Leay. CEO Teresa Williams, who has a background in information technology and management from the UK, was appointed in December 2005. The company’s technical expert is Bill Rucks who has a background in aquaculture.
Aquaflow’s next step is to increase the production from its new technology and test its product in a range of diesel engines. It has recently applied for funding for further research and development of the technology from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. There will be an opportunity for further private investment when Aquaflow updates its share register shortly.
“The market potential for this product is almost unlimited in the ‘Peak Oil’ environment we are in, as there is now a global demand for bio-diesel of billions of litres per year,” says Leay.
Leay adds that Aquaflow would begin commercial production immediately on a small scale, and gradually build it up as optimal scale manufacturing technology was proven. Production is somewhat weather-dependant as algae thrive better on high sunshine levels. Consequently, sunny Blenheim was selected as the ideal environment to start in.
“We expect to produce at least 1,000,000 litres of bio-diesel per year from Blenheim,” says Leay.
Aquaflow could reproduce the bio-diesel process in many other areas of New Zealand and overseas countries could also be interested in the technology.
Unlike some bio-fuels which require crops to be specially grown and thereby compete for land use with food production, and use other scarce resources of fuel, chemicals and fertilizers, the source for algae-based bio-diesel already exists extensively and the process produces a sustainable net energy gain by capturing free solar energy from the sun.