Indian Oil Corporation has been getting overtures from many international companies for its home-grown technology for converting carbon dioxide into Omega-3 fatty acids and lipids.

BASF, Total interested

Disclosing this to BusinessLine during a recent conversation, IOC’s Director, R&D, Dr SSV Ramakumar, mentioned in this context the names of German chemical giant BASF and French refiner Total. The question from many is “when could you licence the technology to us”, he said.

IOC intends to build by this year-end a demonstration plant that will process 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide daily to make Omega-3 fatty acids.

Once the technology is showcased, “we can think of a huge plant”, he said. A kg of CO2 can produce 400 gm of Omega-3, valued at around $800 in the market. In addition, the process can also produce 300 gms of lipids – water soluble organic compounds – which can be used to make bio-ethanol. This technology, therefore, kills two birds with one stone – utilising CO2, a greenhouse gas – and producing a high-value product, Omega-3 fatty acids.

For the past few years, IOC’s Centre for Advanced Bio-energy Research in Faridabad has been straining itself to develop a way to produce Omega-3 using microbial algae. These algae need carbon as feed – the traditional carbon-nutrient glucose is way too expensive for this process. However, a good alternative to glucose are chemicals called acetates. Now, how can acetates be made from CO2? IOC solved this problem by taking a stake in a US-based company called LanzaTech, which had the technology for it.

In this way, it hyphenated two processes to end up with Omega-3 fatty acids – CO2 to acetates, and acetates to Omega-3 using algae. The first leg needs no oxygen, while the second has to have an abundance of it.

Currently, IOC is running a 10 kg/d plant to test out the process, which, according to Ramakumar, is the world’s first-of-its-kind.

With it, IOC is “generating a lot of data” and the quality of Omega-3 fatty acids is “improving day after day”.

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