HY-TEK still thriving at Back River treatment plant
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 11:43

Company still coverting gas by using algae

by Ben Boehl

    It has been over a year since Dundalk native Bob Mroz and his company HY-TEK Bio, LLC have been practicing their technique of reducing CO2 emissions by using algae at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant.
    The process calls for taking methane gas and liquid, produced from the solid waste, and using plant-like organisms to convert the gas into oxygen and marketable algae by-products.
    That allows the clean air to be released into the atmosphere.
    Mroz is partnering with Jack French, vice president of HY-TEK, and the two have been working on this new technology for over five years.
    Though their lease with Baltimore City, which owns the Back River plant, is up, Mroz said that Ted Atwood, director of Baltimore City’s Department of General Services, wants HY-TEK to sign a new five-year lease.
    Mroz added HY-TEK  only collects less than one percent of the amount of “flue gas” waste product from the plant.
    According to Mroz, Baltimore City wants to build a new facility and is hoping that 100 percent of the flue gas from the plant will be converted by algae using the HY-TEK technology.
  

“They have been very welcoming,” Mroz said of Atwood and Baltimore City.
    “It has been a real pleasure and a delight that they want to get involved and want to work with us.”
    Atwood said his department is analyzing some of the primary data and confirmed that HY-TEK could process over 100 percent of the flue gas.
    “Their performance has looked good. They would need more land, and that is something we would look into for them,” Atwood said.
    In addition to Baltimore City, HY-TEK is working on a project at Alpha Ridge Park in Howard County to help trap runoff and pollutants; a landfill near Curtis Bay and a project down by Sparrows Point.
    A Virginia company named AvAer Partners wants to put a waste-to-energy facility on the Sparrows Point peninsula. Mroz said he has been in contact with AvAer.
    “The technology they are using has a sufficiently low amount of CO2, but they want us to get it down to zero,” Mroz added.
    One area in which HY-TEK is also looking for help is funding.
    Baltimore City has given Mroz and his team a $255,000 grant, and they received another $100,000 grant from Maryland Industrial Partnership Program.
    But the unsung heroes of HY-TEK funding, French said, have been corporate sponsors. Many of them, he noted, are local companies.
    “We have a book of sponsors where 26 corporate sponsors have donated supplies, which is the equivalent to $850,000,” French said.
    Mroz added that he has spent time as a government worker and has seen the waste that can take place when there is too much money.
    He said he appreciates the grants but believes sometimes there is too much money given out.
    “We are a little guy. If we were a big guy, people would be banging at the door. Since we are not, we have to scrape by.
    “If I had $20 million, I would probably waste $15 million. You have to scrape by with a low budget. Yes, you will go faster (with more money) but you would waste a lot of money.”
    Without a lot of cash flow, HY-TEK does not have a large staff. Mroz said he was able to compensate for that by bring in interns over the summer.
    Nicolay Duquerobayo from Perry Hall High School, Josh Muchmore from Purdue University, Nicole Rusconi and Drew Golden, both from the University of Maryland College Park, worked at the facility over the summer.
    “They all worked hard and made a big difference in the operation of the facility.  I’m looking forward to bringing them and others back next summer,” Mroz said. 
    “I’m sure they were all excited to be working on such a breakthrough technology to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the three megawatt power plant at the water treatment plant.”
    As Mroz looks ahead, he is still hoping to get Gov. Martin O’Malley to visit his facility. According to Mroz, he has seen and talked to O’Malley on a few occasions and hopes to get him out to the HY-TEK facility at Back River to raise awareness of his work.
    And Mroz said he has also had talks with power companies about his technology and believes HY-TEK has a bright future.
    “This is a reality. This is not something on a shelf at a university,” Mroz noted. “This is exciting stuff.”