Companies and Utilities to Launch Algae Farm in Hawaii
Two companies and two Hawaiian electric utilities are teaming up to develop a commercial-scale microalgae facility on Maui for the production of biodiesel and other products. HR BioPetroleum, Inc. and Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. announced in mid-July that they have signed a memorandum of understanding with Hawaiian Electric Company and Maui Electric Company to pursue the development of the algae farm, with HR BioPetroleum managing the overall project and Alexander & Baldwin providing land next to a Maui Electric power plant. The two utilities—both subsidiaries of Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc.—will help engineer piping to carry emissions from the neighboring power plant to the algae facility. The project is contingent upon a number of factors, including positive results from HR BioPetroleum's pilot-scale and demonstration-scale algae facilities.
If the project goes forward, the facility should begin operating in 2011. During operation, the algae will grow in the carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere of the power plant emissions, converting some of those emissions into algae. The oil will then be extracted from the algae, combined with local vegetable oils, and converted into biodiesel fuel. Microalgae have significant potential as an energy crop, with the levels of oil production per acre potentially far exceeding the levels found in vegetable oil crops. HR BioPetroleum is currently working with Royal Dutch Shell plc on a pilot facility to grow algae on land leased from the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, which is located on the west shore of the island of Hawaii. See the HR BioPetroleum press release and Web page on its joint venture with Shell.