Los Angeles-based OriginOil Inc. has finished phase one of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the U.S. DOE’s Idaho National laboratory. The goal of the three-step agreement is to develop a process model for the commercial production of algae for biofuels.
Phase one focused on developing a comprehensive mass-energy balance of OriginOil’s proprietary algae production process, which includes a Helix Bio Reactor and live or single-step extraction, according to the company. For phase one, INL researchers provided core data on the projected efficiency and recovery values for the various steps in the algae-growing process, including lipid and biomass production, according to OriginOil. “We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” said Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil CEO. “It made it much faster.”
The phase also included evaluation of costs and profit margins and helped the company establish a productivity model, which Eckelberry recently presented at the National Algae Association’s Quarterly Forum in Houston.
The overall goal is to produce algae through a high-speed, cost-effective industrial process to make green crude a substitute for petroleum so the world has a new oil that doesn’t perpetuate global warming, according to the presentation. OriginOil’s proprietary process addresses issues standing in the way of commercial algae production, such as carbon dioxide and nutrient delivery, light delivery, land use, extraction efficiency and harvesting rates, according to the company. The presentation also addresses factors important for algae productivity and evaluates elements of baseline production, wastewater co-location and value-add markets.
The economics of algae are complex and challenging, Riggs concluded in his presentation. Current profitability requires the pursuit of high-value coproducts and co-location with beneficial site hosts. Pursuit of fuel will require continued process optimization at all stages, strong preferences such as subsidies and carbon policy, and petroleum price increases. “With careful planning, algae can be profitable today,” the presentation emphasizes.
Now, INL and OriginOil are negotiating the scope and terms of phases two and three. Phase one was about modeling, Eckelberry said, two will be focused on validation of the technology and three will be field testing. “The next step is really to validate our technology,” Eckelberry said. “We know the system works. Now, we need to validate it with more scale.” The deliverables for additional phases will include biological and chemical feedstock evaluation required for the systems integration design and scale-up demonstration, according to OriginOil. A timeline for remaining phases of the project, funded primarily by the DOE, have not been specifically discussed, Eckelberry said. The presentation, including a schematic of OriginOil’s process, is available on the company’s Web site at www.originoil.com through a link on the latest press release.