Shell Tries to Turn Algae into Fuel

A reliable source of biodiesel could come from an unlikely source

Last week, the oil company Royal Dutch Shell announced plans to build an algae biodiesel plant in Hawaii. The project will progress in stages: first, the company will build a small research plant, with hopes to build a full-scale commercial plant within two years. Algae is an incredibly tantalizing yet frustrating potential fuel source, as PopSci's Elizabeth Svoboda found out earlier this year when writing the tale of an algae biodiesel startup in Colorado. The microbes can create enormous amounts of oil from very little in the way of nutrients and land, but extracting the oil and converting it to biodiesel remains extremely difficult.

Shell is partnering with Hawaii-based HR Biopetroleum on their project, and hopes to produce 8.5 million barrels of biodiesel a year at the commercial plant.—Michael Moyer

(Image Credit: Dan Bihn)