4 minutes with… Orion Lekos PhD, Director of Research, Whole Energy

March 2, 2015 |

1aa8450Tell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Whole Energy focuses on three areas…

1. Marketing Biofuels such as biodiesel, bio-methane, ethanol and renewable diesel;

2. Engineering services such as credit registration and process engineering; and

3. Refining glycerin to a commodity grade product and converting it to specialty chemicals.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

Currently I am working on growing our glycerin business. We recently patented a new bio-gas scrubbing system to upgrade crude bio-gas to a fuel grade bio-methane utilizing a glycerin based scrubbing solution. We are currently piloting the technology in Sacramento, CA at Clean World’s anaerobic digester. We also patented a new method of refining glycerin to a technical grade. It is skid mounted, continuous and has a low capex and opex. Our first 5gpm refinert finished commissioning last October and has been running at full capacity.

I have been writing a business plan around the glycerin products portion of the company and will be working to raise money to grow it.

Working on markets and refining technologies for the biochemical and biproducts of upcoming advanced biofuels has also been a large focus of my work. In order for new fuels to succeed in the market place all the products made at the refinery need to have a home.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?  

In our industry there us a running joke that advanced biofuels will be commercial in the next five years, but I think this time it may be true. We need some commercial successes to quiet the nay sayers and build some momentum.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change? 

Predictable costs for feedstock and a predictable credits and mandates from the government.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?  

We all need to do our part to lower carbon emissions. replacing petroleum derived fuels and chemicals with bio-based fuels and chemicals is a good start, but just the beginning. I work hard in this industry because it has the greatest potential for lowering greenhouse gases.

Where are you from? 

I am from Rice, Washington. A small town that consists of a gas station and post office along the Columbia River in the northeast corner of the state.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway?

I did a self designed major in Renewable Energy at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. I got my masters there as well. I am happy to say they have founded a new college there called the Institute for Energy Studies that I helped create.

Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?

I have had many mentors, but my most influential one is Dr. Gerald Pollack at the University of Washington Bioengineering. Dr. Pollack is not afraid to challenge established scientific ideas and come up with bold new theories that make more sense. His lab discovered a new 4th phase of water that acts like a battery. It charges up from radiant energy and it can be tapped to make electricity. It’s properties and existence explain many previous mysteries of water. He has received many awards for his discovery and given a Ted Talk. Right now he is starting a new organization to fund high risk scientific ideas called THE INSTITUTE FOR VENTURE SCIENCE.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?  

The biggest lesson is to persist. In our industry government support, the market and industry is always changing. If you give up during a down time you will never succeed in advanced biofuels.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry?  

I like to extract medicinal and aromatic compounds from plants. My wife is an herbalist and I enjoy wildcrafting herbs from the woods with her and my two sons.

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island

1. The passive solar handbook.

2. The 4th phase of water by Gerald Pollack

3. Light on Yoga

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?  

Robert Brown has a great book called Why Biofuels.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?  

Mazama, Wa

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