Aquaflow biodiesel

March 2008
Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation (ABC) wants to be the first company in the world to economically produce biofuel from wild algae harvested from open-air environments, to market it, and meet the challenge of increasing demand.

It has already achieved some world firsts 12` May 06 the first production of wild algae biocrude December 06 the first vehicle test-drive of algae biodiesel by the Minister of Energy and Climate Change Hon. David Parker.

ABC harvests algae directly from the settling ponds of the Blenheim Sewage Treatment Plant. It expects to develop a distributed business model in which plants could be moved to other nutrient-rich water. The process can be used in many industries that produce a waste stream, including the transport, dairy, meat and paper industries.

Algae are provided with full opportunity to exploit the nutrients available in the settling ponds, thereby cleaning up the water. The algae are then harvested to remove the remaining contaminant. A last stage of bio-remediation, still in development, will ensure that the water discharge from the process exceeds acceptable quality standards.

The water and sludge treatment process is an elegant clean-up and management service to councils responsible for sewerage treatment systems while also generating a low-cost feedstock for conversion to fuel. The result is an algae-based extract that will ultimately be converted to an alternative fuel source. ABC has established that the company is likely to be able to produce, at commercial scale, a viable biofuel.

Aquaflow is owned 19.9% by Pure Power Asia, of Singapore, a renewable energy company. Its directors are former Christchurch mayor and venture capitalist Vicki Buck, former Electricity Supply Association executive director Barrie Leay and IP specialist and venture capitalist Nick Gerritsen.

Blenheim Sewage Treatment Plant discharges into the Opawa River at the rate of 600 cumecs per hour. There are many such facilities in NZ and around the world. At present ABC is scaling up to treat 100 cumces of that flow and recovers between 30g to 350g of algae per cubic metre. It is anticipated that in 2008 1+m litres of biofuel should be generated from this flow rate.

Land based micro-algae range in size from one micron to 10 microns, and there are around 26,000 species found naturally. In waste water the same species interact in an extremely dynamic manner, with dominant species changing depending upon key variables such as climate and nutrient value etc. Algae develop in 14 to 21 days and they are very important in the treatment of sewage. In the natural cycle in the ponds they would die and fall to the bottom, creating sludge, which must be cleaned out.

Algae are the most sustainable biofuel feedstock due to their constant reproduction the yields per hectare are considerably greater than other land based crop alternatives.

At Hardings Rd, algae is harvested from a portion of the wastewater flow and the algae is then processed by a secret process based in Nelson to become biofuel.

The project is in two stages:

The first is bioremediation, or removing of nutrients from waste water, potentially to create potable water with further treatment under UV light.

The second is biodiesel production from harvested algae.

Algae inhibit the removal of pathogens by UV treatment making the water cloudy which means light cannot penetrate. Once algae are removed it is possible to treat the pathogens (such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, salmonella).

The technology can be used to treat waste streams and produce energy in a variety of industrial situations, including farms.

A number of dairy farmers could get together and share a plant to treat and earn income from their waste while at the same time improving the quality of their effluent and reducing any contamination of ground and surface water.

The technology could also be used to clean up unacceptable waste treatment stations and generate a potentially profitable flow of clean water instead of being a cost to the polluters and the environment.

The Government has introduced a bio-diesel standard, with a target for diesel consumed in NZ (total 3 billion litres annually) to contain 0.25% bio-diesel by 2008 (around 7.5 million litres) and up to 15% bio-diesel by 2010. The technology being developed by Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation could help these targets be met.

There is considerable interest from around the world in what ABC is doing, and the company is working with the likes of Boeing to produce the first algae based next generation aviation fuel.

Story features: Nick Gerritsen (Director/ Co-founder)