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Shell and HR Biopetroleum Form Joint Venture for Algal Biofuel Production

Royal Dutch Shell plc and HR Biopetroleum, a Hawaii-based algal biofuels company, have formed a joint venture—Cellena—to build a pilot facility in Hawaii to grow marine algae and produce vegetable oil for conversion into biofuel. Shell will have the majority share in Cellena.

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 (NELHA), 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 academic research programme will support the project, screening natural microalgae species to determine which ones produce the highest yields and the most vegetable oil. The program will include scientists from the Universities of Hawaii, Southern Mississippi and Dalhousie, in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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. Moreover, facilities can be built on coastal land unsuitable for conventional agriculture. Over the long term, algae cultivation facilities also have the potential to capture waste CO2 directly from industrial facilities such as power plants. The Cellana demonstration will use bottled CO2 to explore this potential.

Algae have great potential as a sustainable feedstock for production of diesel-type fuels with a very small CO2 footprint. This demonstration will be an important test of the technology and, critically, of commercial viability.

—Graeme Sweeney, Shell Executive Vice President Future Fuels and CO2



Well good luck to em.
Algae works, but it doesn't work cost effectively.

If $30 per gallon were a viable option, it'd be no problem.


The main thing is that with big players now working on this, perhaps someone will find a production process that can significantly reduce costs. I'm hopeful that someone will come up with something, but cost is the biggest issue with this technology at this point. Nobody has a full-up commercial pilot facility yet, so nobody is certain what the final cost will be.


==perhaps someone will find a production process that can significantly reduce costs==

Not likely.
The major limitations aren't engineering hurdles.

They are the raw physics associated with photosynthesis itself.


Whats more if you have open ponds, with lots of sunlight. Thats a lot of water being used.


And if it's open ponds, then you can't really pump in much CO2 without a huge percentage of it leaking out.


Lets just say, it's an uphill battle.


"Nobody has a full-up commercial pilot facility yet, so nobody is certain what the final cost will be."

Not true... There are several commercial-scale pilot facilities up & running. Bio-King & Solazyme are two of them.


@ Greyflcn

I think the low-cost approach being explored to date is essentially long plastic bags through which gases and nutrients are sent. The bags lay flat to maximize sun capture and minimize structure costs. It could be a cotton field or a pineaple field other times of year.

There's plenty of water in some parts of Hawaii, and sun.

I've seen your analysis, and I wonder if you're not counting co products like ethanol, protein for animal feed, flu gas sequestration credits, or somesuch?

Certainly in the tropics the PAR should be higher.

Some of the most logical cultivation approaches use cheap bags and PVC and leverage standard farm equipment. Some fields need to be left fallow now and then anyway, so perhaps this is "found money," in such cases.

I think if you look at a bigger system (much like the dairy in Arizona fermenting the cow dung into ethanol, recapturing the methane to run the distillation boiler, and planning to add algae cultivation to clean up the runoff) the ROI, and EROIE may be considerably more attractive.

Rafael Seidl

If the research pans out, they should negotiate a cheap lease for the whole island of Koolahwe, which is uninhabited and devoid of vegitation and was used by the US Navy for bombing practice for several decades. A tax-payer funded effort to clean up unexploded ordnance was incomplete, so Shell would have to spend some money on finishing the job.

The pond terraces required for algaculture could be produced quite crudely using explosives and lined with plastics. Solar-powered water pumps, harvesting, logistics and processing equipment on the island would provide "offshore" jobs for the state of Hawaii, so the product loaded onto tankers is finished biodiesel with only a couple of percent of dino-juice to prevent biological contamination.


hey guys check out Valcent Products Inc. Vertigro technology to grow algae for biofuel production and other uses. They use a closed loop system that wastes no water. the only water lost is to the algae. the algae is grown in vertical bags in greenhouses to increase density. they say they can put these facilities anywhere. they already built their first test facility in Texas and are going to release results. here's a link....

they have a similar system to grow produce.


There are a number of as yet untapped and poorly understood potential benifits that await a properly costed sytem. Consider the analogy of compound extraction.
Water is a neccesary component of both algae farming, reticulated water supply, sanitation , sewage treatment and conventional coal powered power stations among others.
So can be expected to exist in some form around areas of population as these are prerequisites for same.
A model algae plant will look at this and try (There is no technical obtsacle) to touch base at all these points.
Pre treated sewage with solids removed (put that in a barge) is now a transport medium, transporting recyclable high nutrient water to the algae ponds .The ponds may be a series of "billabongs" on route to the nearby coalpower station.
Coalpower and others require a large body of water for cooling. Algaes require depending on species, a stabilized temp for maximum growth.
Nutrients dep on variety.
CO2 depending on variety
sunlight " " "

The very worst outcomes from any half baked version will supply clean water to the outflow.
Once upon a world we would have dreamed of such a good outcome.
In the pollution stressed greenhouse finite world we find ourselves in now, people seem to have fogotten that there are a lot of peripheral? issues re proper stewardship and minimising other enviromental damage.

A second stage in this compound algae factory bio remediation project will see the selected standard algae forms providing @20% by weight of oil (given high yeild extraction methods)with a large residual stream of high quality paper making material (more than a guess) or high protein feedstock for animals @20%+ .
These nubers are a guide only and depending on the level of extraction and the area of focus, will trend more to one by product or another. - nb Valuble byproduct.
Stage three sees further selection of spp with a view to extraction of toxic and later usefull compounds from the waste stream - now a valuable resource. - Phytomining .
This resource will be carrying in a prcentage of all the minerals, nutrients and manufactured compounds including some very toxic that are now almost without exception finding their way to ocean outfalls here in Aus and much more commonly on a world stage into the next downstram populations water supply.
This third stage would be sited at the various "billabong sited along the canal.
Each of these little labs charged with assurring the suitability for next use. Packing and marketing of their component and even the sale or further product development
This would leave a high quality water ready for reintroduction for downstream use or further treatment as necessary for
general consumption or possibly a reverse osmosis membrane or other technology applied able high quality supply.
This model demonstrates multiple testing steps wich should assure consistant quality assurance.

The sequestration of CO2 is not to be measured as such bu any study in that context will reveal a 50% saving if CO2 is removed from flue gas( we dont know how much can be absorbed without further vstudy and spp. analysis)
This 50% figure is derived from the fact that the CO2 gets to go around again.

Students from the local high scools, colleges, prisons, universities or regular council employees would all be capable of understanding the system and the particlar aspect they are resposible for.
Much like the local sanitation boards are now.

All Criticism Welcome.

Ty Cambell

Two viable algae production systems: (1) Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation, demonstrating the harvesting of wild algae from open sewage ponds at the Marlborough, New Zealand municipal sewage disposal plant. Aquaflow is building a 250,000 gallon per year algae based biodiesel plant in Blenheim, New Zealand. (2) Utah State University in association with Andigen, Inc. has integrated an algae production system into a farm manure operation. The manure waste is anaerobically digested to produce methane and electric power. Liquid effluent from the digester is used to grow the algae, which disposes of the CO2, phosphates, and nitrogenous waste. The algae is then used to provide onsite feed for the animals, which produce meat or dairy products. Surplus algae is converted into algae pellets or biofuels. The undigested manure solids can be used or sold as fertilizer. A Dairy farm integrated with an algae farm produces milk, methane, electric power, animal feed, fertilizer, and biomass feedstock for pellets and biofuels. Integrating algae production with manure and effluent disposal is going to put algae on the map.

Michael Weng

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Michael Weng


Can the web administrator put a stop to this spammer who keeps popping up?

Dr. Paul

The economics of the algae farms should be compared to cost of a bio-diesel plant -- which is approximately $1 per gallon --


The Daily Telegraph quotes Shell as claiming 60 tons of diesel per hectare. That works out at 1.23 barrels per hectare per day. Its not clear whether the process needs pumped CO2, but I suspect at that rate it can take it from the atmosphere.

That makes 650,000 km2 to replace all the world's oil. That's actually conceivable, unlike doing it with maize.

Good news for Western Australia and Namibia property prices.


And GreenFuel Technolgies has an active demo going in Arizona - moving to a coal fired power plant in Four Corners NM.

Efforts should be underway to develop marine algal species with high lipid yields near coastal zones - thereby addressing the water issues.

The potential yields on this technology should be enough to invigorate research to lower the cost factors. Contamination continues to be an issue, especially with open air ponds. This was what appeared to tarnish the DOE Aquatic Species studies of 20 years ago. Both Vertigro (Valcent) and GreenFuel are using the closed bag format to combat the contamination issue.

On a much larger scale I would imagine that standard panels (4 x 8') of clear acrylic with etched channels for liquid flow could replace the PV bags. These sheets would be assembled in a modular format and readily oriented for best sun exposure. To some degree these panels could function as building facade - greening the structure both aesthetically and literally.

And some R&D should go into predator elimination. A simple organism added to the algal soup that eats predators before they eat the friendly algae. All in all there appears to be real progress. Given liquid fuels will be needed for heavy lifting in the foreseeable future - this avenue is of primary importance.

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