Shell in Hawaiian algae biofuel pilot
Sees big future in green scum
Oil giant Shell announced yesterday that it will build a pilot plant in Hawaii to make biofuel out of algae grown in seawater ponds.
"Algae have great potential as a sustainable feedstock for production of diesel-type fuels with a very small CO2 footprint," said Graeme Sweeney, Shell veep for Future Fuels.
"This demonstration will be an important test of the technology and, critically, of commercial viability."
The oil company, which is mounting the venture in cooperation with tech developer HR Biopetroleum, believes that swiftly-multiplying algae strains native to Hawaii can produce viable amounts of vegetable oil. It is thought that this can be profitably turned into fuel for diesel engines.
The joint venture is to be called Cellana, and will also feature an academic research project drawing on expertise from universities around the world. Initial analysis by Shell and Biopetroleum suggests that saltwater algae can produce as much as 15 times the oil yield per hectare from landbased crops such as rape, jatropha or palm soya. Selected types of algae can double their mass several times daily, building up a thick layer of scummy gold on the sea surface.
It is also thought that algae fuel farms may be able to act as CO2 sinks for other industrial facilities. The Cellana project will test this using bottled CO2.
Previous schemes to use algae for fuel production have failed commercially, and some analysts have pointed out that algae lacks the political farm-lobby muscle associated with more traditional biofuel sources such as corn. Thus, its use for fuel may never enjoy similar levels of government subsidy and research funding.
However, Shell believes that incoming legislation will continue to drive up biofuel demand. The company claims that it is already "the world's largest distributor of biofuels", and says the use of food crops is "a constraint" on further development.
The joint press release can be read here. ®
not enough CO2
Well, it's bloody freezing today. -5C when I left for work this morning. Fire up the V8's, I say. Get rid of the catalytic converters (didn't i once read somewhere that these things are more damaging to produce than what they convert in the long-term??) Lets get this place warmed up a bit.
I thought the flood Las Vegas bit was a good idea. The amount of lights that place has, must have a carbon footprint comparable to the entire British Isles.
I think the sooner we shift away from the idea of having to burn stuff to create energy, the sooner we will make some progress. But as it stands, it seems almost everyone are racing to find something to burn thats environmentally friendly. Logical.
We're only about 100km or so above a sea of molten rock thats been there for millions of years. Me thinks thats quite hot. Hot enough to tap into & maybe boil a bit of water in a modified steam engine thats connected to a generator. Or is that just a ridiculous, expensive & brain-dead idea? More brain-dead than transporting millions of litres of oil from the middle-east? Then sending it to a refinery. Then all the other environmentally unfriendly processes that go with that before its distributed?
The correct action is more important than any action
I have recently modified my position on global warming from outright supporter to generally pro-skeptic, this hasn't however changed my position on the issue of what the correct reposnse to the threat, (real or not), is.
It certainly is not to try to replace petroleum fuel with biofuel from oil-palm which as already mentioned threatens to herald the greatest ecological, habitat and species destruction ever seen, in one of the world's most species rich and ecologically threatened regions.
The argument against using food crops as there are people starving, however, is entirely bogus, where people are starving, it is nearly always due to political problems, (war, displacement, etc.), not a lack of food, even within the country in question, it just isn't being distributed properly.
Whilst I don't have a ready answer to the source from which our energy should come, (certainly not nuclear, which isn't even low carbon producing when reactor construction, fuel mining and transport and decommisioning are properly factroed in), I do feel that no where near enough effort is being made to curb demand.
And are we really relying on the oil companies, the very organisations that got us into this situation in the frst place, to come up with a solution?
There already is a company in the Netherlands developing and selling commercial solutions for producing algae for biodiesel www.algaelink.com not as relevant but still on the same topic of bio fuels there’s also a company in New Zealand 100% carbon neutral producing bio diesel from hemp www.biogascompany.co.nz