The world’s first wild algae biodiesel, produced in New Zealand by startup Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation (www.aquaflowgroup.com), was successfully test driven by New Zealand’s Minister for Energy and Climate Change Issues, David Parker. The minister filled up a diesel-powered Land Rover with Aquaflow B5-blend biodiesel, and then drove the car around the forecourt of Parliament Buildings in Central Wellington, New Zealand, showing that algae-based biodiesel fuel may be closer to reality than some industry insiders may have thought.

Marlborough-based Aquaflow announced in May that it had produced the world’s first bio-diesel derived from wild micro-algae sourced from local sewage ponds. “We believe we are the first company in the world to test drive a car powered by wild algae-based bio-diesel. This will come as a surprise to some international bio-diesel industry people who believe that this breakthrough is still years away,” said Aquaflow spokesperson Barrie Leay, in a prepared statement.

According to Aquaflow, biodiesel based on algae could eventually become a sustainable, low cost, cleaner-burning fuel alternative for New Zealand, powering family cars, trucks, buses, and boats. Aquaflow says the field could also be used for heating or distributed electricity generation.

Aquaflow says another advantage of this type of fuel is that algae are also readily available and produced in huge volumes in nutrient rich waste streams, such as at the settling ponds of Effluent Management Systems (EMS). Further, the company says algae is good option because it is a renewable indigenous resource.

Aquaflow agreed to undertake a pilot with Marlborough District Council late last year to extract algae from the settling ponds of its EMS based in Blenheim. By removing the main contaminant to use as a fuel feedstock, Aquaflow is also helping clean up the council’s water discharge — a process known as bioremediation.

Blended with conventional mineral diesel, bio-diesel can run vehicles without the need for vehicle modifications. Fuel derived from algae can also help meet the New Zealand government’s B5 (5 percent blended) target, with the prospect of increases over time as biofuel production increases.

The test-drive biodiesel was also used successfully in a static engine test at Massey University’s Wellington, New Zealand campus earlier this month December 11.