December 13, 2007

Shell and HR Biopetroleum to construct facility to turn algae into biofuel

A facility to be built in Hawaii will convert marine algae into biofuel.
A facility to be built in Hawaii will convert marine algae into biofuel. Click image to enlarge

London, England – Royal Dutch Shell and HR Biopetroleum have announced the construction of a pilot facility in Hawaii that will grow marine algae to be converted into biofuel. The company says that algae grows rapidly and is rich in vegetable oil, which can be converted into fuel. The program will include scientists from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, along with those from the University of Hawaii and University of Southern Mississippi.

The two companies have formed a joint venture company, Cellana, with Shell taking the majority share. Construction of the demonstration facility on the Kona coast of Hawaii Island will begin immediately. The site, leased from the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, is near existing commercial algae enterprises that primarily serve the pharmaceutical and nutrition industries.

The facility will grow only non-modified species, indigenous to Hawaii or approved by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, in open-air ponds using proprietary technology. Protection of local environment and marine ecosystems is central to the facility’s design. The facility’s small production volumes will be used for testing.

An academic research program will support the project and will screen natural microalgae species to determine which ones produce the highest yields and the most vegetable oil. Algae can double their mass several times a day and produce at least 15 times more oil per hectare than alternatives such as rape, palm soya or jatropha. Over the long term, algae cultivation facilities also have the potential to absorb waste CO2 directly from industrial facilities such as power plants.

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