Riggs Eckelberry and his brother Nicholas founded OriginOil in 2007, twelve years after they had first talked about starting an environmental technology company. But back in 1995, oil was $16.75 a barrel and “green” was not yet an industry.
The time wasn’t right, and so they went on to work in parallel, Riggs to learn from the disruptive world of the dot-com era; and Nicholas to invent.
By 2006, Riggs had helped take a small company public as its Number Two and had backers to launch another as its CEO; and Nicholas had helped author a patent for generating micro-bubbles efficiently. This experience would eventually inspire OriginOil’s own first patent invention.
The First Mission
Algae was OriginOil’s first mission. We chose our name because algae is the “original oil”, since it appears that much of the world’s petroleum developed over time from massive, primeval algae beds.
Algae is an incredibly efficient source for nutritional products, but also fuel, feed, chemicals and fertilizer.
But while it is easy to make a little algae, it’s very hard to make a lot of it, at scale. The production of algae needed to be industrialized.
So with that mission, OriginOil went public and began trading in April of 2008 on the Over The Counter (OTCQB) marketplace, with the ticker symbol “OOIL”.
Meanwhile, led by Nicholas, the company began inventing along this entire spectrum of industrialized algae production. Early breakthroughs were in areas like Quantum Fracturing, a technology for making algae grow faster by feeding it micro-bubbles of CO2.
But a key invention historically sharpened our focus.
A Singular Breakthrough
In December of 2008, Nicholas discovered a way to use electrical current to harvest algae from the huge volumes of water in which it grows.
In doing so, he overcame one of the biggest challenges in algae production. His invention became the company’s core technology, Single Step Extraction™ (SSE). The first patent was filed in April of 2009, followed by 19 supporting inventions to date.
SSE worked by making suspended solids like algae “clump up”, or flocculate. The algae could be broken up for the intracellular material, including valuable oils – or it could be harvested whole.
But that didn’t get the algae material out of the water. Some of it went to the bottom, some to the top.
In 2011, Nicholas and team found a way to float suspended solids to the surface using a cloud of electrically-generated gas bubbles.
This “electro-flotation” became our second stage, and we found that it made the first stage work even better. By 2012, this two-stage process was known as Electro Water Separation™ (EWS).
OriginOil has since shown in field trials and client experiences that EWS is the best way to harvest algae sustainably and at scale.
But… something was in the works that would propel OriginOil into a whole new arena.
A year later, Bill was chatting with PACE’s Andy Komor. PACE was looking for a better way to extract contaminants from West Texas frack water.
Bill suggested seeing if OriginOil’s algae process could do the job – and it did!
“The early test results using the OriginOil systems far surpassed the results [of other processes],” said Komor.
This was the first time that a licensee had embedded our technology into a complete end to end system! PACE’s subsidiary, Pearl H2O, is now proving the first unit at a California waste oil treatment site.
In 2014, these Oil & Gas activities took off commercially.
We opened our Houston office, and Bill Charneski was named President of the newly-created Oil & Gas Business Unit.
He soon learned that out of ten prospective customers, maybe only one might be a licensee. The rest just wanted to put the technology to work – right away. Even potential licensees wanted to first buy a complete system, to test their market.
That’s when we designed the CLEAN-FRAC™ product line (it’s now branded as OriginClear™), which combines EWS with the exact downstream steps needed for the desired end result – all the way to potable water, with every major step in between.
May 28th 2014 was a historical day.
That’s when our oil and gas technology first left the lab. On that day, we unveiled our new demonstration-scale frack water treatment system, CLEAN-FRAC 1000, at a VIP event in Delta, Colorado.
Meanwhile, Chief Commercial Officer Jean-Louis Kindler was working with Nicholas to open up the China market for oil and gas water cleanup.
In this video, Nicholas commented on the high demand for frack water remediation, and general water cleanup, in China, as it rolls out a trillion-dollar budget to clean up its polluted air and water.
Back in the US, at a working Salt Water Disposal (SWD) well near Midland, Texas, we tested our CLEAN-FRAC 1000 unit on flowback water from wells in the Permian Basin.
The system demonstrated that it could adapt rapidly to incoming truckloads, each with differently-contaminated water, from a variety of wells in the region.
“We intend to build future units ourselves based on the design of this first unit, but we decided it was prudent to purchase a complete first system which we will mount on a mobile platform.”
-Yasser Al Barami, Gulf Energy
Also in October 2014, ISI sold four systems with our technology to Synergy Resources, for treatment of produced water and oily waste in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).
The four units, built for on-site processing of waste oil, are each capable of treating 250 barrels per day of contaminated water.
That was our first sale by a licensee.
Also in October, Gulf Energy, an oil service company with major customers across the Arabian Peninsula, purchased a $1.4M CLEAN-FRAC™ 5000 system, designed to process five thousand barrels per day (bpd), for the company’s growing oil services business.
This was our first direct CLEAN-FRAC sale.
In March 2015, we launched OriginClear Petro (formerly CLEAN-FRAC PRIME), a standalone product designed to provide core water treatment for frac flowback and produced water applications in the oil and gas industry.
The launch followed successful trials in Bakersfield processing produced water from heavy oil in California’s Monterey Shale Formation. A company-produced video outlines the new system.
OriginClear Petro removes up to 99.9% of all free and emulsified oil, and 99.5% of suspended solids from oil & gas wastewater, while also removing certain dissolved contaminants that will co-precipitate, and continuously disinfecting bacteria.
Available in capacities of 250, 1000 and 5000 barrels per day and beyond, OriginClear Petro bundles OriginOil’s core EWS technology with ‘heavies’ removal on the front end, intelligent controls, and a final post-polishing system, all in a single product. (See exploded diagram, left.)
OriginClear Petro is a precursor to downstream processes that remove other contaminants, such as scaling or cross-linking chemicals that inhibit hydraulic fracking effectiveness.
Downstream technologies are provided by “design partners” including Tri-Sep and Dow Chemical.
The company published a roadmap outlining these connections, right.
Algae Harvesting Grows
During this expansion in Oil & Gas, the company’s original algae harvesting business wasn’t idle.
In 2013, we had developed processes to help aquaculture operators manage ammonia levels, but learned that healthier and better-priced fish feed was a higher priority – and that made our algae harvester the “play” for this industry.
In December of that year, we demonstrated our aquaculture systems in an event that drew VIPs, media and industry to a showcase near Palm Springs, California.
And that month, Japan’s Orca Vision ordered three algae harvesters from OriginOil for testing and demonstration, and, in January, became our first licensee in the algae sector.
Algae Harvesting Standard
In March of 2014, EWS received a major endorsement.
That’s when the National Algae Association (NAA) selected OriginOil’s entry-level algae harvester for its model demonstration site.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best way to harvest algae efficiently, without chemicals and without destroying it”, said Barry Cohen, NAA Executive Director.
In September, OriginOil and Algasol Renewables agreed to collaborate on an integrated system to launch at Algasol’s planned showcase in Bangladesh — a unique, large-scale demonstration of micro-algae production for fish feed.
And at the Algae Biomass Summit in October, we showed off our upgraded Model 25 OriginOil Algae Harvester™.
This new, upgraded model featured twice the capacity, stainless steel construction and touch-screen controls, with no increase in price.
And at the summit, Nicholas Eckelberry spoke on efficient algae harvesting for animal feed.
OriginOil continues to serve this growing industry with the efficient harvesting technology it must have.
Cleaning up the world’s industrial and agricultural waste is probably the biggest worldwide opportunity – especially in China, which plans to spend one trillion dollars to the urgent cleanup of its air and water.
Given our other commitments, we have entered this sector in easy steps.
First, we have a showcase for waste technology in Paris, at the headquarters of our French joint venture, Ennesys, where we sanitize liquid sewage to feed algae which can be turned into energy to power buildings!
We’re also experimenting with agricultural effluents and our process shows great promise.
It’s About the Water!
We’re in “Blue-Tech”, a half-billion dollar world market today, and growing.
As Delta’s Sky Magazine put it in its July issue,
As the world’s population balloons — putting more stress on an already shrinking (and often polluted) fresh H2O supply — water dependent businesses of all stripes are turning to cutting-edge products from “blue-tech companies” worldwide.
Some analysts, including Global Water Intelligence, value this market at nearly $500 billion and growing.
Fresh water might not be the new oil, as T. Boone Pickens once argued, but it’s equally in demand and starting a boom of its own.
According to the World Resources Institute, global water consumption during the 20th century grew at twice the rate of population growth. There is probably no greater urgency on the planet today.
At OriginOil, we work every day with the right strategic partners to deploy this breakthrough technology rapidly.
For a world short on clean water, OriginOil is the lower-cost and cleaner answer.
Updated: March 2015