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January 2008 edition

Marine algae seen as providing a promising pool of alternative fuel

Royal Dutch Shell plc and HR Biopetroleum are to build a pilot facility in Hawaii to grow marine algae and produce vegetable oil for conversion into bio-fuel. "Algae have great potential as a sustainable feedstock for production of diesel-type fuels with a very small CO2 footprint," says Graeme Sweeney, Shell executive vp future fuels and CO2. "This will be an important test of the technology and, critically, of commercial viability."

Shell is endeavouring to develop a new generation of bio-fuels using sustainable, non-food raw materials. "Algae hold great promise because they grow very rapidly, are rich in vegetable oil and can be cultivated in ponds of seawater, minimising the use of fertile land and fresh water," Sweeney adds. Shell and HR Biopetroleum have formed a joint venture company, called Cellana, to develop the project, with Shell the majority shareholder. Construction of the demonstration facility on the Kona coast of Hawaii Island is taking place on a site leased from the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA).

The site is close to existing commercial algae enterprises but these are primarily serving the pharmaceutical and nutrition industries.  The Cellana facility will grow only non-modified, marine micro-algae species in open-air ponds using proprietary technology. Algae strains used will be indigenous to Hawaii or approved by the Hawaii Department of....

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