HR BioPetroleum acquires Shell stake in Cellana

By Bryan Sims | February 01, 2011

After four years of loyalty to algae technology investment, Royal Dutch Shell PLC decided to relinquish its stake in Cellana, a joint venture between Shell and Hawaii-based HR BioPetroleum Inc. HRBP has now assumed full ownership of Cellana, including its six-acre demonstration facility in Kona, Hawaii. HRBP and shell formed Cellana as a separate joint venture in 2007 to build and operate a demonstration facility to grow marine algae and produce oil for conversion into biofuel.

In support of the transition, Shell agreed to provide short-term funding to advance and focus the algae technology development program, which is also supported by corporate and project stakeholders, including the University of Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Co., Maui Electric Co., the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts consortium, and the U.S DOE.

According to HRBP CEO Ed Shonsey, the divestment of Shell’s stake in Cellana presents HRBP several opportunities to commercialize its algal technology.

“First, it enables us to pursue independent licensing strategies,” Shonsey said. “Second, we’ll be able to move more quickly in broadening access to our portfolio and, third, it underscores our commitment to a wide range of choices, not only for the fuel, but also for the byproducts such as feed, chemicals, cosmetics and nutrition, which we weren’t at liberty to do before.”

Initially, Shell’s role in the Cellana joint venture, according to Shonsey, was to develop algal extraction technology, and build and manage the demonstration facility in Kona. HRBP, meanwhile, had been focused on developing a pipeline of commercial algae facilities, according to Shonsey. “We’ve done that, and now we’re bringing that all together so that we can act more quickly and have greater flexibility,” he said.

Using naturally-occurring algae strains from the University of Hawaii, HRBP employs a combination of closed-culture photobioreactors with open ponds in a two-stage process. The company claims this hybrid production system is the preferred route for achieving significant breakthroughs in commercialization of algae. HRBP intends to further develop its upstream and downstream algal technology at its Kona demonstration facility with the objective of deploying it at the Ma’alaea site on Maui, Hawaii, Shonsey said.

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