Unlike other approaches to live extraction, OriginOil’s process does not employ expensive consumables such as reverse osmosis membranes; furthermore, it is not limited to oil-bearing algae strains, such as Botryococcus braunii, that are known to excrete algae oil naturally.
Algae typically protect their oil behind a tough cell wall. The challenge of live extraction is to harvest the oil without causing permanent damage to the cell. This goal has been achieved in the laboratory at bench scale and is now being scaled up to OriginOil’s intermediate 200-gallon tank size.
The company recently filed for patent protection of the new Live Extraction process, its ninth patent application, entitled “Procedure for Extraction of Lipids from Algae without Cell Sacrifice.” “Live Extraction works by stimulating the algae cells through specific electrical modulations,” Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil’s chief executive officer, said. “The challenge is how to keep the cells alive while continuously extracting the oil, and we have achieved this.”
“We are pleased with the results we are getting from conventional harvesting,” said Vikram Pattarkine, PhD, OriginOil’s CTO. “We expect the new Live Extraction process to coexist with our daily ‘destructive’ process to create an even more efficient combined cycle.”
Aside from any production gains, combining the two processes is desirable because algae cultures must be refreshed regularly to remove waste toxins. Cascading Production supports Live Extraction by removing a percentage of the culture every day, refreshing the environment and giving the algae culture space to grow.
Following Exxon Mobil’s recent announcement of a $600 million investment in San Diego- based Synthetic Genomics, Paul Reep, senior technical adviser and one of the inventors, noted: “Live lipid extraction is especially beneficial when used with algae that have been genetically engineered for faster growth rate or higher lipid yields. By integrating Live Extraction into our process, we are providing a technology platform for companies like Synthetic Genomics that are experimenting with genetic improvements.”