The algae to oil process developed by Solray Systems simply mimics the process of converting ancient algae to oil at great depths.
Algae is put under great pressure in special energy efficient continuous reactor tubes and heated in a regenerative manner to sufficient temperatures and time periods so that it is converted to hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide.
This was originally tested in the prototype reactor called DIAGEN™, and when it was successful, initiated the program to build a larger plant at the Bromley Waste Water Treatment Plant.
A larger next generation DIAGEN™ called the mark 3 was then constructed for the company Muradel Pty Ltd and installed in Whyalla for their unique salt water high rate ponds. This converts algae grown in seawater into crude oil with very similar properties to Texas Light Sweet Crude.
The Mark 3 plant is larger and considerably more developed with additional features to enable continuous operation with the ability to be able to isolate off any key part for maintenance without stopping the operation.
The Christchurch City Council was extremely supportive in this project in making available space and use of the pond system. The Crown Research Institute NIWA was very interested in this project and has been of invaluable help by providing their advanced technology in growing algae in waste water as a source of algae.
While algae employs the energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into biomatter, it also needs other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphate, sulfur and iron to manufacture essential proteins and DNA. The nutrients available in waste water provide an ideal source of these minerals for the algae. Algae is grown in a simple inexpensive extended pond system and then harvested continuously by pumping a discharge stream through a simple static separator. When this algae has been grown and harvested correctly, then the remaining water is practically free of the nutrients and can be classed as essentially pure water.
This Algae project had to be curtailed when the area was hit by a powerful earthquake which badly damaged the algae pond system,
Lately Solray has remodeled the original mark 2 plant with the mark 1 plant to create the latest model mark 4 plant. This plant is installed in Christchurch and used for processing waste Dry Cleaning Sludge where the remaining active solvent, Perchloroethylene into harmless common salt and the remaining waste into a form of crude oil. It is expected to broaden the feedstocks to encompass waste agricultural Toxic Organic Compounds which will also be converted into harmless metal salts and crude oil.