Solray Energy opens new Algae to Bio-crude Oil Plant

This project is a great example of public-private partnership in action with Solray Energy, NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) and the Christchurch City Council working together to make the project a success. Algae to biofuels at this scale is apparently the first in the world. The project uses NIWA’s 5ha demonstration high rate algae pond that gets CO2 pumped into it, which gets trapped and encourages algae to grow. The algae is constantly mixed so it grows in colonies and is then pumped across the road to Solray where it is heated to above 300 degrees celsius in a super critical water reactor (SCWR), which mimics the natural process of turning it into crude oil (very similified explanation!). To remove the algae from the bio-crude oil they use a solvent which is then recycled and the algae residue is used as fertiliser. The bio-crude oil is then separated into petrol (20%), diesel (45%) and bitumen (20%) plus a few others. The whole lifecycle is all on one site making it easier to manage and monitor.

The super critical water reactor (SCWR) is very innovative and inventive. It was designed and built in New Zealand by Solray Energy, which means NZ can reap the benefits of the technology. As well as providing a possible new way to make fuel this technology could also allow for small scale carbon capture and localised use of the technology. It is also a cheap and simple way to harvest the algae.

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