Algae fuel facility

Shell and HR Biopetroleum are to construct a pilot facility in Hawaii to grow marine algae and produce vegetable oil for conversion into biofuel.

The two companies have formed a joint venture operation, called Cellana, to develop the project, with Shell taking the majority share.

Construction of the demonstration facility on the Kona coast of Hawaii Island will begin immediately and will grow non-modified, marine microalgae species in open-air ponds using proprietary technology. Once the algae are harvested, the vegetable oil will be extracted.

An academic research programme will support the project, screening natural microalgae species to determine which ones produce the highest yields and the most vegetable oil.

According to Shell, algae hold great promise as a biofuel enabler because they grow rapidly, are rich in vegetable oil and can be cultivated in ponds of seawater. They 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 have the potential to absorb waste CO2 directly from industrial facilities such as power plants and the Cellana demonstration will use bottled CO2 to explore this potential.