Cellana Inc. said it has begun producing oil from algae grown at its Kona facility and is on track to begin commercial production by 2014.
The Big Island company is harvesting up to one ton of algae a month in ponds at its 6-acre facility at Keahole Point. The company estimates it will be able to grow up to 60 tons of algae capable of producing 3,800 gallons of oil per acre per year.
The oil can be refined into a variety of products, including biodiesel for automobiles and power generation plants. Other uses include animal feed, cosmetics, nutritional oils and industrial chemicals.
Oil-rich algae is considered an attractive crop for biofuel production because of its relatively high yield compared with other crops. Algae can produce up to 11 times more oil per acre than the oil palm nut, the next-highest yielding feedstock, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Algae yields are as much as 145 times higher than soybeans, the department said.
“Over $100 million has been invested to date in our Kona demonstration facility, our algae strains and the process we use to grow, harvest and separate our algae biomass, which puts Cellana on a very short list of leading companies in the emerging algae-based biofuels and bioproducts industry,” said Martin Sabarsky, Cellana’s chief executive office.
Cellana’s parent company, Cellana LLC, last month changed its name from HR BioPetroleum, which was founded in 2004. HR BioPetroleum in 2008 signed a memorandum of understanding with Maui Electric Co. and Alexander & Baldwin Inc. to develop a commercial algae facility on land next to MECO’s Maalaea power plant.
“It is a pioneering effort with tremendous potential, and we are now looking at 2014 for the construction and operation of this transformational facility on Maui,” Sabarsky said.
Cellana also announced yesterday that it has received a $5.5 million federal grant to develop animal feed from the algae grown at the Keahole Point facility.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be combined with $1.6 million raised by Cellana for the project titled “Developing a new Generation of Animal Feed Supplements,” according to a news release from the office of U.S. Sen Daniel Inouye.
The project began Sunday and runs through April 30, 2014.
The senator praised “Cellana’s efforts to move Hawaii away from the use of imported fossil fuels while developing innovative new products form one of our most readily available resources.”