This year marks the tenth anniversary of the New Mexico Small Business Assistance program, created by the state Legislature in 2000 to provide technical help from Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories to small businesses throughout the state.
At the 2011 NMSBA Innovation Celebration, held April 7 at the Indian Cultural Center in Albuquerque, laboratory officials recognized 12 small businesses that have participated in the program. The businesses are in both urban and rural communities of New Mexico, and include agricultural companies, medical technologies and an irrigation district.
Among them was Eldorado Biofuels, LLC, which received NMSBA assistance in 2010. Working in rural Jal, N.M., owner Paul Laur and partner Alfonz Viszolay of VM Technologies are developing algae biofuels by using “produced water” that is pulled from the ground during oil and gas production. LANL’s Chemistry Division researcher Greg Wagner conducted tests to confirm that water from the Jal oil fields was ideal for algal growth. The company also learned how to customize the treatment process for different types of produced water. Eldorado Biofuels’ first 10-acre test bed in Jal will serve as a pilot for oil and gas fields statewide. “NMSBA brought the science and procedures to test our technology. We wouldn’t be where we are today without access to New Mexico’s national labs,” Laur said.
According to the company’s website, once treated, produced water can be used for industrial applications such as growing algae, mining and enhanced oil recovery, thereby conserving fresh water. Algae could potentially deliver more than 5,000 gallons per acre per year of biodiesel. Soybeans produce only about 200 gallons per acre per year.
CleanAIR Systems, Inc.,founded in 1993, was one of the first small businesses assisted by NMSBA. The company developed technology to clean the emissions of large diesel engines used for electricity generation, oil drilling and marine uses. Sandia National Lab’s Ted Borek tested the performance of CleanAIR’s catalyst systems.
“It made a huge difference to customers to have Sandia National Laboratories evaluate our products’ performance,” says Michael Roach, the company’s founder. To date, CleanAIR has grown to 50 employees, was acquired by Caterpillar in 2010, and is undergoing a major expansion of its Santa Fe facility.
Since its inception, NMSBA has helped 1,736 New Mexico small business access technical expertise through the state’s two national labs. At no cost, New Mexico small businesses can seek help from lab scientists or engineers for projects that require testing, design consultation and access to special equipment or facilities.
To find out more about NMSBA, visit www.nmsbaprogram.org.
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