'Green coke' proves red hot

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 16:16 25/09/2012

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Blenheim-based company Carbonscape has been named runner-up in a global green technology contest in New York.

Director Nick Gerritsen, of Picton, said from the United States yesterday the publicity and contacts made at the event were invaluable.

The $150,000 prize money would also help get the company into full production on "green coke" so it could fill its first contract.

In a text from New York, Mr Gerritsen said the status from being a finalist in the International Dutch Postcode Lottery Green Challenge had opened up "considerable networks", so it was a "phenomenal result".

It is believed to be the first time a New Zealand company has won an award in the competition.

The company beat more than 500 contestants from around the world to reach the final three and was awarded a runner-up prize for its patented microwave technology that converts wood, such as saw dust and other biowaste, into high-value graphite, activated carbon and metallurgical coke. They hope the renewable coke will replace fossil fuels in the steel industry and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The awards were presented at a Clinton Global Initiative dinner in New York yesterday attended by world leaders, scientists, philanthropists and business leaders.

The initiative was founded in 2005 by former United States president Bill Clinton to “forge solutions to the world's most pressing challenges”.

Carbonscape director Tim Langley said Carbonscape had already signed a deal with a large New Zealand steel manufacturer to supply 9000 tonnes of green coke next year.

CarbonScape needs to expand its Blenheim plant to commercial production to fill the contract.

“Winning this grant will help us go ahead with the plant," Mr Langley said.

The company was talking to potential investors in Europe.

"It also opens so many doors and will fast-track our international development.”

Mr Gerritsen said he was "completely blown away", not only by winning this prize but also by the excitement and interest generated from potential investors and customers, world leaders and media.

“It's been a long, hard road since we started in 2006 but we knew we had a winner in our technology. This success is down to our hard-working team in New Zealand and the faith a small group of investors have shown in us. I'm immensely grateful to all of them.”

Molly Morse, of US company Mango Materials, won the challenge and the €500,000 (NZ$783,000) grand prize. Carbonscape and Dutch company Peerby BV were runners-up, who each take home €100,000 (NZ$150,000).

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- The Marlborough Express

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