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Single-Step Extraction

Harvesting Algae is Costly and Energy-Intensive

Biofuels Digest Quote

Harvesting microscopic organisms is the algae industry’s biggest challenge. (Click to enlarge)

Harvesting algae is a challenge. Microalgae grow suspended in large volumes of water; at harvest time, there may be as 1,000 times more water than algae, or more. This must be reduced to roughly a 10:1 ratio before the algae is useful for commercial applications.

But the algae lives in microscopic suspension, creating a major challenge that is much like trying to clarify coffee after it is brewed. So harvesting has been a high cost activity, effectively keeping algae from taking its rightful place as petroleum’s replacement.

Costs have been high, because existing dewatering processes rely on chemicals or on heavy equipment, or both.

If chemicals are used, the water must be treated extensively before it can be used again for algae growing.

If heavy equipment is used, there are high costs of energy, capital and operation which make the product too expensive to compete with petroleum.

OriginOil’s Harvesting Breakthrough

OriginOil has proven a system called Single Step Extraction™ that is chemical-free, low-energy, high-flow and low-cost. No other process can meet all these requirements.

And Single Step Extraction does more than dewater: it can rupture tough algae cell walls (a process called “lysing”) – to free up oils and other valuable cellular components that downstream processes can separate out.

Finally, we’ve combined Single Step Extraction with an efficient concentration step to achieve a concentrate with up to 10% algae solids.

The lysing  - or cell rupture - unit goes into the container.
The 40-foot container for shipment of the full-size units for MBD Energy's Tarong display site. One of the two 75 GPM (300 LPM) flocculation - or clumping - units. Bill Charneski, head of product engineering, with a full-size flocculation unit.

Shipping full-size Single Step Extraction systems for a power plant project in Australia (March 2012) (Click to enlarge)

What is Single Step Extraction?

Our process takes advantage of the fact that algae are highly sensitive to electromagnetic waves. We’ve learned to generate precisely tuned wave patterns that cause the algae to come out of solution (or “flocculate”) and to rupture (or “lyse”).

Our process uses long, specially-designed tubes through which the algae travels, as it gradually comes out of solution, the cells being optionally ruptured.

Other elements of our process include pre-conditioning the algae using algae metabolites, natural substances that algae produces or interacts with.

After the now-flocculated (and lysed) algae leaves the tubes, it is efficiently concentrated, producing an algae concentrate that is easily processed for algae’s many applications.

Comparing Processes

In this table, we look at competing dewatering processes.

  • Membrane technology is capital-intensive; and maintenance costs can be high.
  • Centrifuges are very expensive when used to dewater completely diluted algae.
  • Chemicals have to be replenished, and effluent water must be treated before it can be reused.
  • Mechanical systems are both energy- and cost-intensive.

(Click to enlarge)

Comparing Algae Dewatering Process

© OriginOil 2012 rev March 2012

Unlike these other methods, Single Step Extraction is chemical free, low-energy, continuous process, low-cost… and can both dewater algae and rupture cells if desired.

OriginOil’s Single Step Extraction system enables the cost-effective production of algae for renewable crude oil.

Continue to Proving the Technology»