Royal Dutch Shell and HR Biopetroleum have announced the construction of a pilot facility in Hawaii to grow marine algae and produce vegetable oil for conversion into biodiesel.
Shell and HR Biopetroleum have formed a joint venture company, called Cellana, to develop this project. Construction of the pilot 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, primarily serving the pharmaceutical and nutrition industries.
The facility will grow only non-modified, marine microalgae species in open-air ponds using proprietary technology. Algae strains used will be indigenous to Hawaii or approved by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. Protection of the local environment and marine ecosystem has been central to facility design. Once the algae are harvested, the vegetable oil will be extracted. The facility’s small production volumes will be used for testing.
An advantage of algae is their rapid growth. 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 also have the potential to absorb or ‘capture’ waste CO2 directly from industrial facilities such as power plants. The Cellana demonstration will use bottled CO2 to explore this potential.