Feeds

Shell in Hawaiian algae biofuel pilot

Sees big future in green scum

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?