Company strikes oil in effluent ponds

BY EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2009
SEWAGE TO FUEL: Solray director Wayne Harpur, of Invercargill, holds a bottle of  wastewater algae and a bottle of fuel. His company, Solray Energy, converts human sewage into crude oil.
THE PRESS
SEWAGE TO FUEL: Solray director Wayne Harpur, of Invercargill, holds a bottle of wastewater algae and a bottle of fuel. His company, Solray Energy, converts human sewage into crude oil.

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An Invercargill businessman whose company turns human sewage into crude oil said he would hold talks with overseas investors in coming weeks in a bid to take his product to the world stage.

Solray Energy director Wayne Harpur said he was on a high following yesterday's official opening of a Christchurch-based demonstration project, which combines his company's bio-crude oil conversion technology with Niwa's scientific expertise to make crude oil from algae grown in wastewater.

The project opening had attracted national media coverage, users of the technology and investors from overseas who had appeared impressed, he said.

Most interest had come from hotter countries where algae grew faster, he said.

Mr Harpur intends to hold talks with international companies in coming weeks, though he declined to say who they were. "We have a family of shareholders but there's no doubt it's going to need some bigger players to take it to the world stage," he said.

A highlight of yesterday's project opening, based at an oxidation pond at the garden city's wastewater treatment plant, was when Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee ran a lawnmower powered by Solray Energy's "100 per cent algae petrol", Mr Harpur said.

He had been nervous because lawnmowers didn't always start at the best of times, but it had run well, he said.

But the business was not all about converting human sewage to crude oil.

The process treated wastewater, recovered wastewater nutrients as fertiliser, removed carbon dioxide from flue gas and created biofuel, he said.

Local councils were interested in the technology.

Councils generally tried to prevent algae growing in their oxidation ponds because of its unpleasant nature resulting in messy ponds. However, Solray Energy took the opposite approach.

"We say let it grow and we can turn it into something useful such as fuel and fertiliser ... then we dispose of the algae and you have got clean water (in the local authority oxidation ponds)."

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- The Southland Times

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