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Algae oil Answered

I've been reading about biodiesel and about using vegitable oil from algae. It would seem that per acre you can produce 250 times as much vegitable oil using algae than soy beans. I've been looking into the necessary parts for a very small scale demonstration project, including production, harvesting, drying and converting oil into diesel, but I'm having problems finding information of oil extraction. There are some very large oil extractors using screw and expeller. Even a very small one would cost several thousand dollars and since it is made for seeds I'm not sure it would work with algae. Does anyone here know about oil extraction process and how it can be scaled down and used with algae? The system I envision would only take the first pass in extracting oil, about 70%. From what I've been reading it is possible to get another 25% but requires some very nasty chemicals. Also, taking only that first press, the leftovers (refered to as "oil cake") makes for an excellent animal feed. After extracting that last 25% the leftovers are no longer suitable because of the toxic chemicals used. I'd rather have the 70% and animal feed and not have to bother with some very elaborate procedures for handling toxic chemicals. Anyone else interested in helping to put together a demo project like this? I already have resources on converting voil to biodiesel. Like I said, I'm mostly looking for information on extracting the oil. Thanks


well its been two years have you gotten your job and made on of these and did it work?

I'm not an expert and these are just some thoughts;
If your using unicellular algae, the cell membranes could be lysed or broken by chemical or mechanical methods. Mechanical methods would avoid the toxicity of adding chemicals and reduce the cost of a process. cells can be ruptured in alot of ways, as mentioned in a lot posts, but a hundred years ago when I was in a cell biology course, we ruptured cells to extract dna, ribosomes, etc. with a waring blender. a waring blender is about the same as a kitchen blender

we put tissues in the blender and whipped it around in the blender for 10 min

now seperating the water from the "oil" since the oil should float on top of the water most of the water could be removed with a seperatory funnel and the oil your left with be run thru a column of anhydrous calcium chloride

just a thought


6 years ago

Screw expellers can't process algae correctly.
it's too small, and a good portion of algae isn't processed at all.
What is processed can retain large amounts of oil.

Most algae oil operations utilize a multi-step process for extracting oil, and, depending on what i was doing with the oil, i'd do the same. Here's my basic process as simplified as i can make it:

1. Concentrate the algae. I'd remove as much excess water as possible, and i'd do this by simply filtering the water through a coffee filter or similar small mesh. You're looking to adjust the consistency of the algae culture to something more akin to apple sauce.

2. Basic Lysolysis. After I concentrated the algae into a slurry, I'd introduce sodium or potassium hydroxide. The "dryer" the hydroxide, the better off you'd be. though they're strong bases, sodium and potassium hydroxide can act as salts, removing the water from the algae. It also breaks down a number of fatty esters, which can be useful in extraction.
Lipids can be released at this stage, and are easy to remove because the lipids should float, and can be syphoned off.

3. Filter the Aqueous layer. Again, strain the product. However this time, you want to keep the aqueous layer instead of the algal layer. All that should be left of the algal is lysed algae cells.
If you want to recover the lysed algae, you can, but it probably needs to acidified before you try to use this as a feed stock. hydrochloric acid produces salt as the by-product.

4. Acidification. By treating the algae with a strong base, a fair amount of the oils should be converted into soluble carboxylate salts. In order to recover these salts, simply acidify the aqueous solution.
Since toxic chemicals are to be avoided, i suggest using a simple protic acid like hydrochloric acid. This makes the by-products equivalent to salt, water, and the carboxylic acids.


6 years ago

If anyone is still reading this there is a video on youtube of a flax seed oil extractor, with a link to plans.

Any developments on the algae oil press? Looking to obtain or build one as well..


8 years ago

 Yes I am doing a school project about that, and I have to pres algae for obtain the oil. I am going to test diferent ways. 

Press dried algae, press wet algae, breaking algae cells with a strong change of osmotic pressure.

Please if you know something, contact me.

A good way, would be a cylinder, with a piston, and a drill system to squeeze hard the algae.

What would you use to press the oil out from the algae

finnally I only got "decent" results dissolving the inside oil with etanol or/and dietyl-eter. That solvents passed throught the cell wall and membrane. Later I let the solven evaporate, and I get oil.

breaking the cells with physical methods (crushing) I also get some oil bubles floating in water...

but if you want lot of oil, not only for lab tests..., I suggest u to use a good press, you can make a homemade one with an hidraulic car's jack.

what about using the dried algae in gasifier or wood burner. you still get to test the energy potential with out the expensive presses. just a thought. ive know about his technology for awhile but just started looking into it

What about thermal refinement? seems like a good use for fractional distillation, maybe?

In responce to the original post: I'm very interested in building a demonstration model to produce bio fuel from algae. I have resources to build a bio reactor, press and any other processing equipment. My biggest issue with this project has been the science behind converting the extracted oil into fuel and also how to obtain those chemicals in the most efficent way. I would love to help with this project as much or as little as you need.

I'll take all the help I can get. Sadly, I'm one of the many who's unemployment extension have been cut short by the Republicans, so I may well be homeless after the 1st. This project has to go on the back burner for me for a while. But as far as the science of converting vegetable oil into biodiesel is very sell established and and there are instructions for DIY systems on a number of websites. These are geared towards people who want to convert used cooking oil into fuel, but the process is the same. Science Daily ran an article last year about a new process. Unfortunately it uses a proprietary solid catalyst but there continues to be a lot of research being done. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090325222006.htm My current ideas have been targeted more towards the extraction part, which has been a big hang-up for the technology. I've been looking into continuous centrifuge technology to separate out not only the oil, but proteins, polyglycols and other components of algae for other uses as well. I hope there's something in here that you will find useful. I wish you luck.

Hi everyone, I am in the process of educating myself on oil algae and the extraction process. Can anyone help me on the algae itself? I am looking for the highest quality algae I can get (highest oil %). Where can i get it? I am working on a three part process. I am be putting together systems to: Grow and harvest algae, extract the oil, process Biodiesel. Any and all info sent my way would be greatly appreciated.

I am doing research for my senior project, I read somewhere (I think it was www.oilgea.com) that your standard pond scum strain of alagae has a very high oil content.


8 years ago

You can try freezing algae, water inside cells, will expand and broke cells.
Or with cicle hexane, but is carcinogenic.

Cyclohexane? Not known to be carcinogenic to me, but like n-hexane neither are very nice.


I'm rather interested in this, and have been thinking. What if you just drilled holes in a piece of PVC and had a tube that fit into that? Then you placed the Algae in and used the smaller tube to press it down and squeeze the liquid out. Would that work? I don't have the money to spend on an expensive oil press.

I'm not sure PVC would work. I think you'd need more pressure than it could handle, but I haven't build|tested anything out yet so that's just conjecture on my part. It seem from what I've been reading that extraction is one of the main bottle necks that is hanging everybody up. Lately I"ve been dealing with survival issues but in the back of my mind I"ve been coming up with some alternative ideas.

If you want to do continuous feed, it almost has to be a screw type press from what I have seen.

For a 'simple batch press', you might build a sturdy cylinder with small holes, a close fitting piston, and use a hydraulic jack to apply pressure.

Something like http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber=4711 (a 6 ton shop press) might be a good starting point. It only has a little over 3" compression, but it still would be enough to prove the concept.

Let us know how it goes!

Hi there i am testing alge myself for the production of bio diesel my first batch of alge are ready to test for oil but unfortunatly i have the same difficulty on how to extract the oil. the best method i came accross was to use a homogenesizer that is been used to compress milk. this machine unfortunatly cost a lot off money i would be interested to make contact with you by e-mail to send you mabe some fotos of my bio reactor and to exchange some information. Can you please state the link where you found a press for $800 to extract the alge oil.

I would be very interested in exchanging information and seeing your bioreactor. As for the $800 press, that was a used machine on ebay. New ones (and even most used ones) are a lot more expensive (and for me, way too large for a demo project). Lately I've found a place in the area, the Tech Shop, where I have access to big lathes, milling machines and other metal working equipment. I'm hoping to find or create (beg, borrow or whatever) plans for a small oil press.

Of all the extraction processes, the screw expeller seems to be the simplest and the byproduct makes for an excellent animal feed.

So far, I've found this. I'm hoping to scale this down and turn it into something I can make myself. I'm learning to make a lead screw for another project. A motor and gear box can be bought off the shelf, so it's just a matter of casting, machining and/or welding the rest. Any ideas or suggestions are always welcome.

C:\My Documents\MWD\projects\Food Machine\screw oil press.gif

Looks kind of like a sausage grinder or injection molding machine plastic injector.


10 years ago

$800 will fit my budget. Where would I find the product?

i think yore giong about pressing it the wrong way, i think you could adapt a 50 ton shop press and some pipe into a small scale oil press for demo purposes

just take a piece of say 2 or 3 inch schedule 80 steel pipe and piece of shaft that just barely fits inside (maybe .001-.002 inch clearance. have the pipe be the top, load your dried algae into the pipe then put the shaft in. place it in the press so the oil would just run down the pipe. You may think about welding a box onto the shaft to function as a catch bowl. Another think that you may need to do (not really sure) is cut a small notch into the shaft or the inside of the pipe for the oil to run down, but it might work just fine without the notch. IF you forwarded me niklaas and your info on the bioreactor it would be cool, or just make an instrucable on what you have so far.

. Try Googling algae +"oil extraction" . LOTS of good info out there.

Well, lots of information anyway. So far, all I've found about oil extraction machines is that they are out there and can be purchased. I saw one a couple months ago for $800 (which blows my budget several times over just by itself). I guess I'll just keep looking. Thanks!

An easy Google
Osmotic shock sounds cheap & easy: salt?
And you could get hold of an ultrasonic bath reasonably easily(?)