New Zealand, Texas companies collaborate on algae process

By Luke Geiver | August 29, 2011

Aquaflow Bionomic Corp., a New Zealand-based algae technology developer, is taking a broad approach to algae-to-fuel development—one the company’s director Nick Gerritsen said may include nonalgae feedstocks. Aquaflow recently agreed to work with Texas-based CRI Catalyst Co. to further develop a process that can potentially convert algae and other feedstocks into renewable fuels. According to Gerritsen, the company has developed conversion technology that enables multiple biomass feedstocks to be used, and “it is a view that we have been quietly pursuing for the last few years, leveraging the special chemistry of algae and supplementing it and building it out with other feedstocks.”

The cooperative agreement between Aquaflow and CRI Catalyst will allow both companies to further refine an integrated hydropyrolysis and hydroconversion process known as IH2. The conversion technology was originally developed at the Gas Technology Institute and produces its own hydrogen while recycling water during the process. CRI has acquired the licensing rights to the technology, and now, Gerritsen said the two companies will focus on constructing a demonstration facility that will put the IHtechnology and the work of Aquaflow to the test. Although Gerritsen said that the company can’t disclose the top possible sites yet, he said the company does have a number of sites indentified. “It is clear that there is significant opportunity for Aquaflow in the U.S.,” he said.

Aquaflow uses wild, naturally occurring algae and has developed technology that ranges from harvesting and dewatering, to multiple biomass configurations of drop-in fuels and chemicals. Gerritsen said the goal of the partnership with CRI Catalyst is to produce drop-in fuels “that are economic right now,” adding that it has “developed significant flexibility—so most if not all waste feedstocks can be configured to produce valuable fuels outputs. It means we can take into account regional variance and resources and create a solution that harnesses the value offered.”

The formation of the partnership is, according to Gerritsen, the culmination of four years work with the IHtechnology and the multibiomass approach in which “the unique chemical qualities of algae can be maximized within a mix of other biomass streams.” Although an algae study released early this year indicated that the cost of algae eutrophication (the increase of organic matter to a water supply) to the U.S. economy was roughly $4.3 billion, he believes it is actually much higher.

CRI Catalyst shares the same goal to offer a renewable fuel in the near-term, according to Gerritsen. The Houston-based company also provides technology to the petrochemical industry, including ethylene oxide, selective hydrogenation and environmental and renewable fuels and chemicals technology.

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