ICHTHYOL® PALE has an extremely interesting history of development. In geoscientific terms its origin goes back to deposits of microscopically small algae (phytoplankton) in a special lagoon milieu in the alpine region of the mesozoic era. Under certain conditions large quantities of organically combined sulphur could be formed in the biomass during biological (anaerobic) degradation of the marine phytoplankton by sulphate reducing bacteria. By diagenetic processes the periodic deposits developed into schist-like sedimentary rocks (oil shale) that contain the marine biomass in a solidified form today.
The extraction of suitable shale rock from deposits inside the mountain and the further manufacture of ICHTHYOL® PALE are very complex and challenging technically. At the end of geological processes qualitatively appropriate, highly sulphuric deposits of oil shale are hidden hardly accessible inside the mountains and have to be exploited in a complicated system of underground chambers.
In the dry distillation process following underground mining the oil shale rock is gently heated under exclusion of air. Thereby, biomass present in the rock is decomposed only to such an extent that it can be converted from a solid into a liquid form. The resulting shale oil is obtained in a mixture with water which has to be removed in another process step by phase separation.
The dry distillation process of oil shale is impeded by presence of high amounts of gangue as valueless limestone layers alternate with those containing biomass. However, the dead rock has to be heated in the process as well so that a relatively high input of energy is necessary as related to the yield of oil. For energy saving the manufacturing process, therefore, is equipped with a sophisticated heat recovery system.
Manufacture of ICHTHYOL® PALE from highly sulphuric shale oil takes place in a specially equipped refinery with associated chemical production in Seefeld, Austria. The plant operates according to requirements for active pharmaceutical ingredients on European level after the guidelines of good manufacturing practice (GMP). The GMP system guarantees that onsite all ICHTHYOL® substances are manufactured reproducible in compliance with the requested (pharmacopoeia) quality.
Shale oil is fractionated in a vacuum column. For manufacture of ICHTHYOL® PALE the most volatile fraction is used.
By sulfonation and subsequent neutralization the oil is made water soluble. In this manner ICHTHYOL® PALE results as a sodium salt of a pale sulfonated shale oil.