Green groups oppose MECO plan to bring in palm oil

Maui environmental groups are organizing a letter-writing campaign to persuade Hawaiian Electric Co. and the state government to head off plans to import palm oil from Malaysia to be used in a test at Maui Electric Co.’s Maalaea power plant.

The international campaign was sparked by a German group, Rainforest-Rescue.org. Maui Tomorrow Foundation, Sierra Club Maui and the statewide group Life of the Land are protesting here in the islands.

They oppose a Public Utilities Commission decision to allow HECO to use palm oil at Campbell Industrial Park and to allow Maui Electric to test palm oil at Maalaea.

A spokesman for HECO said Tuesday: “We share a concern for the environment and human rights, which is why in 2007 Hawaiian Electric worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council to create a sustainable biofuels policy that we include in all contracts.”

HECO has signed what it calls a “very short” (two years) contract to supply its Campbell plant with fuel made from recovered animal waste on the Mainland. To get its new Campbell plant permitted, HECO had to promise to use renewable fuel.

For the Maalaea test, it contracted with Sime Darby to supply a million gallons of palm oil.

Decision time on Hu Honua

Power plant proposal thrashed out at hearing, Pepeekeo site visit

by Peter Sur
The president of Hu Honua Bioenergy answered community concerns about a proposed power plant under oath Wednesday and gave a tour of the shuttered facility that he hopes to reopen.

The final witness in the contested case hearing in Hilo was Hu Honua President Rick McQuain, who appeared before hearings officer Robert Crudele and the 16 opponents, called intervenors, who are against the proposed $70 million biomass plant.

Once the final briefs are submitted, Crudele will review the evidence and make a recommendation to the county’s Windward Planning Commission. The seven-member commission will then decide whether to approve Hu Honua’s request to change a 1985 special management area permit that authorized a coal-fired plant.

Hu Honua wants to generate electricity by burning chipped eucalyptus trees, processing about 260,000 tons of biomass per year. The company wants to use the former Hilo Coast Processing Co.’s coal-burning plant in Pepeekeo, which closed in 2004.

Feds helping Big Island company with $5 mil loan guarantee

An energy company on the Big Island will receive a $5 million loan guarantee from the federal government to help finish construction of a manufacturing plant in Kawaihae.

The announcement was made Thursday in a Washington news release by Hawaii’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka.

Big Island Carbon’s $25 million plant will convert discarded macadamia nut shells into a product that can generate power, filter air and purify water.

Plans call for the company to buy about 10,000 tons of more than 20,000 tons of shells produced annually on the Big Island to convert into 1,000 tons of granular activated carbon.

Big Island Carbon will power its own operations. Any excess biofuel or gas will be sold on the island.

Feds helping Big Island company with $5 mil loan guarantee – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com

Navy pursuing biofuel

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Hawaiian sugar grower working on crops to fuel ships, planes.

HONOLULU — The federal government has turned to a 130-year-old Hawaii sugar grower for help in powering the Navy and weaning the nation off a heavy reliance on fossil fuels.

It will spend at least $10 million over the next five years to fund research and development at Maui cane fields for crops capable of fueling Navy fighter jets and ships. The project also may provide farmers in other warm climates with a model for harvesting their biofuel crops.

Hawaii has become a key federal laboratory for biofuels because of its dependence on imported oil as well as its great weather for growing crops. Factor in the heavy military presence at places such as Pearl Harbor, and the islands become an ideal site for the government to test biofuel ideas on a commercial scale.

“Hawaii is kind of the perfect storm of opportunity,” said Tom Hicks, the Navy’s deputy assistant secretary for energy.

Hawaii sugar grower working to power Navy

Navy fighter jets and ship could be powered by biofuels grown in Hawaii under an effort funded by the federal government.

The government is spending at least $10 million over five years on research and development at Maui cane fields for crops capable of fueling Navy fighter jets and ships. The project also may provide farmers in other warm climates with a model for harvesting biofuel crops.

Hawaii has become a key federal laboratory for biofuels because of its dependence on imported oil and its great weather for growing crops. It also has a large military presence.

The Office of Naval Research is funding the five-year program at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar, a company dating to the 1870s that runs the last sugar plantation in the state.

Hawaii sugar grower working to power Navy – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com

Exploring Algae as Fuel

SAN DIEGO — In a laboratory where almost all the test tubes look green, the tools of modern biotechnology are being applied to lowly pond scum.

Foreign genes are being spliced into algae and native genes are being tweaked.

Different strains of algae are pitted against one another in survival-of-the-fittest contests in an effort to accelerate the evolution of fast-growing, hardy strains.

The goal is nothing less than to create superalgae, highly efficient at converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into lipids and oils that can be sent to a refinery and made into diesel or jet fuel.

“We’ve probably engineered over 4,000 strains,” said Mike Mendez, a co-founder and vice president for technology at Sapphire Energy, the owner of the laboratory. “My whole goal here at Sapphire is to domesticate algae, to make it a crop.”

Department of Energy – Secretary Chu Announces Six Projects to Convert Captured CO2 Emissions from Industrial Sources into Useful Products

Secretary Chu Announces Six Projects to Convert Captured CO2 Emissions from Industrial Sources into Useful Products
$106 Million Recovery Act Investment will Reduce CO2 Emissions and Mitigate Climate Change

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today the selections of six projects that aim to find ways of converting captured carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources into useful products such as fuel, plastics, cement, and fertilizers. Funded with $106 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -matched with $156 million in private cost-share -today’s selections demonstrate the potential opportunity to use CO2 as an inexpensive raw material that can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions while producing useful by-products that Americans can use.

“These innovative projects convert carbon pollution from a climate threat to an economic resource,” said Secretary Chu. “This is part of our broad commitment to unleash the American innovation machine and build the thriving, clean energy economy of the future.”

Converting captured CO2 into products such as chemicals, carbonates, plastics, fuels, building materials, and other commodities is an important aspect of carbon capture and storage technology. Converting CO2 into other useful forms can help reduce carbon emissions in areas where long-term storage of CO2 is not practical. It is anticipated that large volumes of CO2 will be available as fossil fuel-based power plants and other CO2-emitting industries are equipped with CO2 emissions control technologies to comply with regulatory requirements.

The projects announced today were initially selected for a first phase funding in October 2009 as part of a $1.4 billion effort to capture CO2 from industrial sources for storage or beneficial use. Over the succeeding months, the project teams have performed experiments on innovative concepts and produced preliminary designs for pilot plants to study the feasibility of capturing and using CO2 exhausted from industrial processes. The selected projects now enter a second phase in which researchers design, construct, and operate their innovations at pilot-scale and evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of applying them commercially.

The projects selected to demonstrate the beneficial use of CO2 include:

Phycal, LLC (Highland Heights, Ohio)-Phycal will complete development of an integrated system designed to produce liquid biocrude fuel from microalgae cultivated with captured CO2. The algal biocrude can be blended with other fuels for power generation or processed into a variety of renewable drop-in replacement fuels such as jet fuel and biodiesel. Phycal will design, build, and operate a CO2-to-algae-to-biofuels facility at a nominal thirty acre site in Central O’ahu (near Wahiawa and Kapolei), Hawaii. Hawaii Electric Company will qualify the biocrude for boiler use, and Tesoro will supply CO2 and evaluate fuel products. (DOE Share: $24,243,509)

Isle ethanol efforts stall

two surviving ventures face high hurdles

Ask just about anyone involved in the effort to start a home-grown ethanol industry in Hawaii and invariably the word "challenging" comes up.

Challenging, it turns out, is an understatement.

Four years ago companies were lining up to build ethanol production facilities in Hawaii after the state launched a program that offered generous tax credits and set a mandate that most gasoline sold in the state must contain 10 percent of the renewable fuel. Soaring ethanol prices, which hit a record $4.23 a gallon in the summer of 2006, also spurred interest. On the mainland, dozens of corn-based ethanol plants sprouted up across the Great Plains.

In Hawaii, meanwhile, plans were moving forward to erect ethanol plants that would mostly use sugar cane or sugar cane byproducts as a feedstock. Before any of the companies could get their permits approved, however, the price of ethanol collapsed, falling as low as $1.40 a gallon in late 2008. In addition to falling prices, difficulty in securing land to grow feedstocks and dwindling investor interest have made it difficult to get any new processing facilities up and running.

There were plans in recent years to build at least six plants in Hawaii to produce ethanol, an alcohol-based renewable fuel that can be made from a variety of organic materials, including sugar cane. Of the original six that were planned, only two are still on the books, and neither has a target date to begin construction.

USDA Blog » Biomass and Biofuel – What’s in it for Hawaii’s Agriculture?

Hawaii and the Pacific Basin

The dwindling global supply of fossil fuels and the resulting escalation in prices has set the stage for entry of commercial biofuel produced from biomass, including co-products and bi-products. This transition in the energy sector’s feed stocks offers Hawaii a unique opportunity to locally produce biofuel from locally produced biomass feed stocks, and ultimately support the stabilization of the state’s energy resources; increase the local circulation of energy dollars; and further under gird Hawaii’s agricultural industry.

In October 2009, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced plans for a “Great Green Fleet” to demonstrate that Navy and Marine Corps ships and aircraft could operate utilizing non-fossil fuels by year 2016. In January, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Secretary Mabus to support the biomass and biofuel development that would ultimately fuel the Green Fleet. Hawaii was selected as a pilot region, with USDA providing the “push” through research and business incentives and the Navy making the “pull” with plans for purchase of biofuel from locally produced biomass.