BlueOcean’s partner is “testing it to see if they can produce more algae per unit area. They are using to improve their economics at very little cost,” Dil Vashi, corporate development manager for Blue Ocean told NutraIngredients-USA. While Vashi said he couldn’t name the partner at this time, he said it is a company involved with producing a range of ingredients from algae, including nutraceutical products.
BlueOcean, which is based in Toronto, has been developing the system over a period of years after first licensing the technology from another company, Inventures. The technology can infuse gas into liquids at the molecular level, as a mass transfer, as opposed to the bubbling technique most commonly used.
Using bubbles, a significant amount of CO2 is lost to outgassing at the surface, Vashi said. But he said that’s not the primary issue, as CO2 is very cheap. If it’s pouring out at the surface, you just pump more in. It’s really what happens at the molecular level that’s important, because bubbles brushing past the algal cells is not a very efficient way to deliver this key nutrient.
With BlueOcean’s system, the water being used to grow the algae can be brought to a high level of CO2 saturation, with all of the CO2 molecules being available for uptake. Pilot tests of the system show that it is more than capable of delivering optimum CO2 saturation levels, Vashi said.
“We have tested the system all the way up to 1 gram of CO2 per liter of water. We have found that 0.5 grams per liter is the optimum level for most algal strains,” Vashi said.
Such high CO2 levels would normally lead to the acidification of the growing medium. But Blue Ocean’s mass transfer technology allows the addition of buffering agents to the medium without increasing the rate of CO2 outgassing, meaning both optimum CO2 saturation and pH can be maintained, the company said.
The project will commence on April 15, 2015 and be completed by September 30, 2015 and will include the application of BlueOcean's CO2 infuser to the commercial algae producer's current growth system at bench scale. Upon completion of the project and review of the results, the companies may enter into a licensing arrangement to use BlueOcean's proprietary CO2 infusion system in the commercial algae producer's algae growth system to attain enhanced algae biomass production.
BlueOcean has also been developing its own modular algae production system at test scale. The company uses is gas infusion system mounted onto standard 250-gallon totes. The pilot test is nearing completion at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AZCATI) which is connected to Arizona State University in Tempe.