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MNCs keen on IOC technology that makes Omega-3 fatty acids from Co2

M Ramesh Chennai | Updated on February 19, 2021

File photo   -  KSL

A kg of CO2 can give 400 gm of Omega-3, valued at around $ 800 in the market

Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has been getting overtures from many international companies for its home-grown technology for converting carbon dioxide into Omega-3 fatty acids and lipids. Disclosing this to Business Line in a recent conversation, IOC Director-R&D, Dr SSV Ramakumar, mentioned in this context the names of the German chemical giant, BASF and the French refiner, Total. The question from many abroad is, “when could you license the technology to us,” he said.

IOC intends to build by this year end a demonstration plant that will process 200 tons 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 give 400 gm of Omega-3, valued at around $ 800 in the market. In addition, the process can also produce 300 gm of lipids—water soluble organic compounds, which can be used to make bio-ethanol.

This technology, therefore, kills two birds with one stone—utilizing CO2, a greenhouse gas which would otherwise take up residence in the upper atmosphere and cause global warming, and producing a high-value product, namely, the 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 of producing 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 to make acetates 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 a complete lack of oxygen, while the second has to have 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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Published on February 19, 2021
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