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The final frontier for fatty acids


A new facility has opened in the Western Isles of Scotland boasting a unique two-stage process for making fatty acid concentrates of up to 99% purity from marine or botanical oils.

The first stage involved the production of an intermediate concentrate by using crystallization and low-temperature fractionation, said Adam Kelliher, chief executive of Equateq, the company behind the plant.

"This enables us to obtain a substantial separation of fatty acids between the solid and liquid phases, allowing us to intensify the oil up to 70% purity without tinkering with its molecular structure," said Kelliher. "The second stage uses preparative scale HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography), which is able to enrich up to 99% by adjusting the processing conditions."

The same processes can be applied to all the fatty acids on the metabolic pathway, said Kelliher, who took over the plant in January 2006 with his wife Cathra - the daughter of lipid pioneer Dr David Horrobin. "We can supply the raw materials, or work on customer-supplied material. We can handle anything from primrose or borage oil to fish oil for any company looking to expand in the booming omega-oils sector, be they pharmaceutical, food or supplement companies."

Kelliher, who recently sold the Equazen omega-3 business he founded to Swiss pharmaceuticals firm Galenica, said Equateq aimed to be at the forefront of lipid technology. "I really enjoyed building up Equazen, but I also wanted to do research and development. Our aim is to be at the cutting edge of lipid development and technology."