Algae into oil

A company based in Los Angeles, California, claims to have developed a single-step process to transform algae into a true competitor to petroleum.

In addition to integrating this process into its own production system, OriginOil plans to commercialise the patent-pending process for use by others in the algae industry.

Initial testing indicates that the new algae oil extraction process is simpler and more efficient than current systems, without requiring chemicals or significant capital expenditure for heavy machinery.

A time-lapse video posted here on the company’s website begins with a batch of algae that has just gone through OriginOil’s process. In less than an hour, the oil, water and biomass separate by gravity alone.

Harvesting algae is a challenge. Algae grows suspended in large volumes of water. Once ready for harvest, the algae culture must be concentrated and the oil extracted from each cell. Then, the oil, water and biomass must all be separated for processing.

But unlike conventional systems, no chemicals or heavy machinery are used in OriginOil’s single-step process, and no initial dewatering is required.

‘Throughout the world, algae production is becoming a fact, but it still has to be harvested efficiently,’ said Riggs Eckelberry, chief executive of OriginOil. ‘Our technology accomplishes key parts of the harvesting process in a single, cost-effective step.’

The company recently filed for patent protection of the new algae oil extraction process, its seventh patent application, entitled ‘Device and Method for Separation, Cell Lysing and Flocculation of Algae from Water.’

Dr Vikram Pattarkine, chief technical officer of OriginOil, said: ‘With this new process, we have greatly improved on our previous harvesting technology. We now have a single device and process that we will optimise and scale up in upcoming trials for commercialisation.’