Shell awards prize for algae-to-biodiesel process

By Ryan C. Christiansen | February 10, 2009
Web exclusive posted Feb. 25, 2009, at 10:49 a.m. CST

Scottish Bioenergy Cooperative Ventures has been awarded the £40,000 ($57,000) Climate Change Innovation Prize from Royal Dutch Shell PLC's Shell Springboard program. Based in St. Cyrus, Scotland, the company builds, sells and operates photobioreactors for capturing carbon dioxide emissions to grow algae feedstock for biodiesel production.

Scottish Bioenergy recently completed successfully testing a small-scale version of its photobioreactor at the Glenturret Distillery in Crieff, Scotland; the distillery was built in 1775 and the oldest working distillery in Scotland. Carbon dioxide from the distillery's boiler exhaust was captured and percolated through the photobioreactor. The system also eliminated chemicals and copper from the waste exhaust.

"This is a fantastic endorsement of the project," said David Van Alstyne, managing director for Scottish Bioenergy. "The financial award means that we can push ahead immediately with construction of the full system. "

The next phase of the project will be to build a photobioreactor at the distillery that's capable of converting 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide into 6,000 liters (1,600 gallons) of biodiesel per year, according to The Edrington Group, which is backing the Scottish Bioenergy venture. The final phase will be to build a commercial-scale photobioreactor, larger than what the Glenturret Distillery can accommodate, to produce more than 1.2 metric tons of biodiesel per day.

"The U.K. has a large number of brewers and distillers who use heavy oil in the production of alcohol and who are seeking new methods to reduce their carbon dioxide output," Van Alstyne said. "One distiller burning over 200 tons of oil per day at a single facility equates to over 500 tons of carbon dioxide output. Our technology would reduce the carbon dioxide emissions whilst creating useful and sellable biodiesel."

"The project not only has huge commercial potential, but could have a significant impact on the U.K.'s carbon emissions," said Sue Paterson, U.K. partner operated ventures manager for Shell.
 
 
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