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Blenheim start-up scoops green honours overseas

Marlborough clean-tech company wins big for tackling green house gas emissions

A Blenheim start-up has scooped more than $150,000 as a finalist in an international green business challenge and is in the running for even more.

Carbon-refining company CarbonScape became one of three finalists in the international Postcode Lottery Green Challenge in Amsterdam last night, taking home at least $156,000.

The cash injection will help the company bring its CO2-reducing business plans to market.

CarbonScape co-director Nick Gerritsen will travel to New York for the final this week, beating out 500 other competitors to make the finals.

“This is a real breakthrough for us. It gives CarbonScape huge exposure to potential customers and investors,” Gerritsen said.

“We were both honoured and ecstatic with the result. Its an opportunity to build on the interest coming out of Europe – that’s the main prize,” said co-director Tim Langley.

Gerritsen spent several days in Amsterdam with the judging panel presenting the business case and answering questions.

The jury will announce the winner of the €500,000 (NZ$783,000) grand prize at a special dinner in New York organised in conjunction with the Clinton Global Initiative.

CarbonScape has developed patented continuous-flow microwave technology in an energy self-sufficient process to convert wood and other waste into high-value graphite, Activated Carbon (AC), and metallurgical coke.

In English, you ask?

“Basically, we refine carbons with microwaves out of any biomass, resulting in these products – and in the case of both graphite and ‘coke’ they replace fossil fuels,” explains Langley.

The widespread introduction of CarbonScape’s renewable 'green coke' to replace fossil fuels in the steel industry would significantly impact total global green house gas emissions.

“These steel companies are totally reliant on fossil fuel coke and are taking a huge hit from carbon taxes. They are looking for an alternative and we think we have it,” says Langley.

Gerritsen says their company is also attracting serious engagement from international investment fund managers looking to invest in sustainable business.

The lauded entrepreneurs have continued innovating since December 2010, when CarbonScape pioneered world leading green technology – a one-step process to cheaply produce Activated Carbon.

For now, the company has small-scale production at its pilot site in Marlborough.

This major award has been presented to leaders in environmental change and innovation every year since 2007.

If CarbonScape do take out top honours at the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge (and lets hope they do) it would be a first for a Kiwi company.

Previous winners include rooftop wind turbines and naturally sourced insulation.