A pilot facility for growing algae to be used as a biofuels source will be built by Royal Dutch Shell plc, The Hague, The Netherlands, and HR Biopetroleum, which is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in Hawaii. The facility will cultivate algae in seawater ponds, then harvest the algae and extract oil from them for conversion into fuels such as biodiesel. Construction of the facility will begin immediately on a parcel of land leased from the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA), which is located on the shore of the Hawaiian island of Kona. The site is suitable for the project because it pipes in a constant supply of clean, fresh ocean water.
Algae grow rapidly and can have a high percentage of lipids, or oils. They can double their mass several times a day and produce at least 15 times more oil per acre than alternatives such as rapeseed, palms, soybeans or jatropha. Also, algae-growing facilities can be built on coastal land unsuitable for conventional agriculture.
This facility will grow only non-genetically modified, marine micro-algae species in open-air ponds using proprietary technology. It will also use bottled carbon dioxide to test the algae’s ability to capture carbon. To support the facility, academic research programs at the University of Hawaii, the University of Southern Mississippi and Canada’s Dalhousie University will screen natural microalgae species to find the strains that produce the highest yields and the most oil.
To develop the biofuels project, Shell and HR Biopetroleum have formed a joint venture company called Cellana.