Solar energy consultant partners with advanced biofuel developer

| November 10, 2011

Australia’s Sunshine Coast could be home to an energy park that combines solar energy and a biomass-to-energy process developed by Aquaflow Bionomic Corp. The future energy facility will hinge on the recently formed partnership between Aquaflow and Energy Parks Australia Pty, a niche consultancy specializing in the development and deployment strategies for large-scale, centralized energy parks that feature solar infrastructure, according to Jason Hague of Energy Parks Australia.

The first site on the Sunshine Coast has already been chosen, and although Hague said it will take time (a couple of years) to arrange the feedstock waste streams needed for Aquaflow’s technology, which is based on advanced pyrolysis and a proprietary catalyst that removes oxygen from the biomass, the “end user appetite for the biofuels to be produced is strong,” he said, adding that “because of policy announcements over the last few months we feel the future of biofuels in Australia to be very robust.”

The early goal of the partnership, according to Hague, is to develop the infrastructure needed to operate an energy park at both demonstration and commercial scale. For instance he explained, 10 tons of biomass per day demonstration plant only requires one or two truck movements per day, but a 2,000 ton per day plant would require roughly 200-plus truck movements per day. “The plant itself is self-contained for energy and water requirements,” he said of the plan for the future park. “Site location is a critical part of the process, with access to haulage routes and regulatory consent key factors in finding the best sites.”

The access to feedstock played a key role in determining the first site on the Sunshine Coast. Close access to the cellulosic feedstock was a key determinant to minimize the transportation costs associated with getting the feedstock from the field to the conversion facility, Hague said.

The Sunshine Coast, located near Queensland, produces millions of tons of waste biomass every year, according to Aquaflow, from the production of sugarcane and forestry. The Aquaflow technology platform is designed to convert various biomass waste streams, including algae, in the production of advanced biofuels. For Hague, the first site’s location near the coast offers a unique area for the project due to the solar energy available there, and the close proximity of available biomass that can be used for Aquaflow’s technology.

“With near-record oil prices, the future of biofuel made from organic plant material,” Hague said, “is of keen interest worldwide. The Sunshine Coast could be a major hub for the production and distribution of biofuels and clean energy.”