In the race to develop better biofuels, no self-respecting oil company wants to be left behind. In recent years, we’ve seen Shell, Exxon, BP, and Chevron invest hundreds of millions in biofuel technology. Statoil, one of the world’s largest offshore oil and gas producers, has decided to get on board with a seaweed-to-ethanol project.
As part of a strategic partnership with startup Bio Architecture Lab, Statoil will fund research and development for BAL’s technology, which converts Norwegian seaweed (aka macro algae) into ethanol. Statoil will be responsible for managing seaweed aquafarming operations, and the two companies will work together to develop a demonstration facility in Norway. If all goes well, Statoil will begin large-scale commercialization in the country and elsewhere in Europe.
The partnership makes sense–Statoil has offshore energy production experience, and BAL has the seaweed farming know-how. In a statement, Guntis Aboltins-Abolins, Head of the Future Fuel unitat Statoil, explained “Statoil has a unique competitive advantage in energy production in the marine environment. We are very impressed with the science and the progress BAL has made and we believe their approach to low cost and sustainable biomass feedstock solutions is among the most promising we have seen.”
This isn’t Statoil’s first foray into biofuels–but it is the most experimental. Forty percent of Statoil stations in Norway offer a bioethanol blend to customers, The company also has a 49% share in a rapeseed biodiesel production facility on the Lithuanian coast.