Shell

Shell

Evaluating marine algae farming

Context

Feedstocks for biofuel production can be controversial – many types of agriculture adversely affect biodiversity and can compete with food production. Marine algae grow quickly and, unlike other energy crops, do not require land that might otherwise be used for food production. Shell GameChanger asked Innovia to explore viable options for farming marine algae as a feedstock for biofuel production.

Approach

We went back to fundamental science, and created a range of models to gain insight into the different challenges involved, in particular: supply of nutrients, ways to contain the algae and methods for harvesting and water separation. We sought inspiration from many diverse sources, including polyethylene sheeting for greenhouses, civil engineering of polders, polymer reptation, hydrocyclones and remediation of oil slicks.

Impact

In December 2007 Shell and HR BioPetroleum, Inc. announced the construction of a pilot facility in Hawaii to develop this disruptive technology.