Algae-based oil reaches new milestone

Oct. 26, 2009 at 11:57 AM
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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- U.S.-based OriginOil Inc. announced its low-energy process to extract oil from algae reached the highest industry standard for extraction efficiency.

The typical range of efficiency for oil from algae is between 94 percent and 97 percent. OriginOil said its latest technology reached 97 percent extraction of oil from algae cells.

"This level of efficiency is astonishing for a process that requires less than a tenth of the energy of conventional processes, and without needing chemicals," said Riggs Eckelberry, the chief executive officer at OriginOil.

The company said oil, water and biomass separate by gravity in less than an hour. Its latest technology uses electromagnetic pulses and pH modification to break down the cell walls of algae to release the oil, which then rises to the surface of the medium.

Supermajor Exxon Mobil announced plans in July to team up with Synthetic Genomics on a $600 million partnership to genetically engineer new strains of algae for biofuels.

Exxon Mobil said algae could generate as much as 2,000 gallons of fuel per acre each year, compared to the palm tree yield of 650 gallons and 450 gallons for sugar cane.

OriginOil is working on technology to transform algae into a competitor to petroleum, noting much of the world's oil and gas reserves are derived from ancient deposits of algae. Its latest work is in collaboration with California State University at Long Beach.

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