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Press Release

Successful Extraction of “Green Crude Oil” from Blue-Green Algae

-High Yield Extraction at Room Temperature without Drying nor Pulverizing Process-

2010.3.17
New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)
Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI)
As a project funded under NEDO's “Grant for Industrial Technology Research Program”, NEDO, CRIEPI and Hideki Kanda, Chief Scientist of CRIEPI successfully developed a method to extract “Green Crude Oil” Note3 from algae (blue-green algae) Note2 using liquefied dimethyl ether (DME)Note1 at room temperature in high yield.
Because this method utilizes the unique nature of liquefied DME, namely its ability to mix easily with water and oil, and can dewater and extract oils from blue-algae at room temperature concurrently, it can not only reduce the amount of energy required for dewatering and drying to a significant extent compared to conventional methods but also eliminate the organic solvents required for oil extraction, thereby representing a good opportunity to develop an environmentally friendly and economical oil extraction process.
The achievement mentioned herein is scheduled for presentation during the 90th Springtime Annual Meeting of The Chemical Society of Japan (CSJ) (Main campus, Kinki University) from 26-29 March, 2010.


(Note 1) Liquefied dimethyl ether (DME: chemical formula: CH3OCH3) is the simplest form of ether. Unlike other ethers, DME does not form peroxides, is non-toxic, has no effect on global warming nor ozone depletion and can be considered an environmentally friendly solvent. Both synthesized gas and liquid from coal are being utilized more frequently as inexpensive fuels in the People's Republic of China. Likewise in Japan, DME is used as a propellant for aerosol spray cans and its safety has been confirmed. The standard boiling point of DME is minus 25°C and we used liquefied DME under 20°C·0.5MPa in this study.

(Note 2) Algae show a high capacity to fix carbon dioxide, and therefore have the advantage of not competing with other edible resources and represent a good biofuel candidate. Conversely, because blue-green algae proliferation occurs in eutrophied lakes and ponds but has a negative impact on fisheries, this means such lakes and ponds cannot be considered for use as drinking water and often disrupts ecosystems, promoting the beneficial utilization of blue-green algae is sought-after and highly anticipated.

(Note 3) “Green Crude Oil” is a collective designation for an oily substance in the cells of microalgae and its trial utilization as a substitute fuel for petroleum is spreading.

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