NTNU spin-off secures NOK 25 million

(20.09.2010) MemfoACT, an NTNU spin-off, has secured NOK 25 million to turn its award-winning membrane technology into a commercial product. Based on research conducted at NTNU's Department of Chemical Engineering, the company's carbon membrane can transform low-grade biogas into valuble biofuel that can be used in cars, buses and trucks.

The technology will  first be used to upgrade units that produce biomethane from biogas. In turn, this biomethane can be used as engine fuel for cars, buses and the like.

The company currently has three lab scale demonstration/test rigs in operation, where the carbon membrane is being tested and verified on real biogas streams.The test rigs, all of which are in Norway, are located at FBAS (Fredrikstad biogass AS) in Fredrikstad and GLØR (Gausdal, Lillehammer og Øyer Renholdsverk) in Lillehammer, in addition to the Høvringen sewage biogas plant in Trondheim. The NOK 25 million will be used to build a full-scale pilot unit to produce the MemfoACT membranes.

Mimics natural membranes
The MemfoACT carbon membrane enables separation of gases without the use of chemicals or other contaminants, by imitating nature's own separation method, known from internal organs such as kidneys and lungs where urea and oxygen are separated from blood. The special feature of the carbon membrane is its ability to combine high selectivity with high productivity which results in low gas separation costs.

One key advantage of MemfoACT's technology is that it can be retrofitted in a cost-effective way to existing small to medium scale biogas plants as well as built into new biogas plants. Other biogas purification technologies, such as pressure swing adsorption (PSA), physical absorption, chemical absorption and cryogenic separation, are highly energy demanding and have waste issues. In contrast, MemfoACT's membrane separation technology is an energy efficient and environmentally friendly method for biogas upgrading. 

High energy potential
The potential biowaste energy available iin Europe is estimated at approximately 400 TWh/yr, or about 13 per cent of the region's 3042 TWh total electric energy consumption. Some estimates say that the EU could replace its natural gas imports from Russia if the total energy potential in biowaste were used as biomethane. The total biowaste potential in Norway is calculated to 6 TWh/yr.

Biowaste is a renewable and CO2-neutral energy source, which means that the CO2 that is released when burning biomethane was already in the natural cycle. Collecting and burning biomethane, which has a larger global warming potential than CO2 (almost 23 times higher), hence contributes to a reduction of the greenhouse effect.

Helps with challenges in organic waste management
Investment in organic waste management will be boosted by regulations that prohibit methane emissions and increased attention to methane as an aggressive greenhouse gas. Waste management is strictly regulated, both in Norway and the EU. It is forbidden to emit methane from industry, sewage and waste treatment facilities.

Strong investor team
MemfoACT recently conducted a share issue amounting to NOK 16 million, and has an investment team consisting of Viking Venture, Alliance Venture, Salvesen and Thams and the waste management company GLØR IKS. The company has also won pilot project funding from Innovation Norway, with NOK 5.3 million in support, matched by contributions from its three biogass pilot customers.  MemfoACT was created in August, 2008 as a joint venture betrween NTNU Technology Transfer and NTNU scientists Professor May-Britt Hägg, Dr. Ing. Jon Arvid Lie and Dr. Ing. Arne Lindbråthen.