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.
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.
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)
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.
Local production is the key to gradually moving the state away from imported fuel
The state’s quest for energy independence took a step forward with Hawaiian Electric Co. receiving bids from 10 companies seeking to supply the utility with biofuel produced locally to burn in its power plants.
There are a number of potential biofuel feedstocks that can be produced in Hawaii, including:
» Sugar cane
» Invasive trees
» Waste products
HECO said it would begin buying the renewable fuel over the next five years, starting with small amounts and gradually expanding its intake as the fledgling biofuel industry matures in Hawaii.
"We are pleased with the strong response," said HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg.
The deadline for companies to submit bids was Friday, and HECO is now evaluating the proposals. The names of the companies will not be made public until the winning bid or bids are announced.
By CHRIS HAMILTON, Staff Writer
State Commission on Water Resource Management Chairwoman Laura Thielen on Friday called the panel’s decision last week to put millions of gallons of water a day back into East Maui’s streams "groundbreaking."
For more than 125 years, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. has diverted water from the East Maui watershed for its sugar cane cultivation in Central Maui. Maui County also uses stream water to supply 10,000 customers Upcountry, including farmers and ranchers.
In a statement issued by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which Thielen also heads, she called Tuesday’s 5-1 vote during a Paia meeting "a flexible approach that meets most of the needs of competing water demands."
The commission’s decision also "strongly emphasized responsible management of public trust resources," Thielen said. For the first time, HC&S must monitor and report water in its irrigation system to the state. And Maui County must fix its leaky Waikamoi flume within three years, a process already under way.
"Maui County and HC&S need to make the necessary investments to repair existing infrastructure and to develop responsible and reliable alternative water sources to meet their critical domestic and agricultural water needs," Thielen said.
Release No. 0231.10
Secretary Vilsack, Obama Administration Officials, and Rural Energy Stakeholders Discuss Renewable Energy Opportunities During Clean Energy Forum
WASHINGTON, May 5, 2010 -Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other administration officials joined rural stakeholders from across the country at a clean energy economy forum at the White House. The group discussed renewable energy opportunities for rural communities and the Obama Administration’s efforts to help rural America build a clean energy economy that creates jobs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil and enhances our position in the global economy. The Administration officials also had the opportunity to hear from farmers, ranchers and producers about their experiences in the emerging clean energy economy.
At the forum, Secretary Vilsack also noted that today marks the one year anniversary of President Obama’s Biofuels Directive and said that implementation of the renewable energy provisions of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) continues to move forward rapidly.
"Renewable energy production is a key to sustainable economic development in rural America," Vilsack said. "We must rapidly escalate the production of biofuels to meet the 2022 Federal Renewable Fuels standard goal, and much of this biofuel will come from feedstocks produced by America’s farmers and ranchers.
By AUDREY McAVOY
Hawaii’s last sugar plantation could start producing jet fuel for the Navy.
Federal agencies on Wednesday announced they would spend millions of dollars to study producing advanced biofuels from sugarcane grown at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar’s fields on Maui.
The Office of Naval Research is budgeting $2 million annually for the project through 2015, with a focus on producing diesel and jet fuel from sugar.
The Department of Energy is spending $2 million a year to have the University of Hawaii study energy crop development and energy conversion technologies.
HC&S General Manager Chris Benjamin says his company will be a "working laboratory" to test the potential of biofuel production.
"This federal funding represents a vote of confidence in Hawaii and in the future of HC&S," Benjamin said in a news release. "It is a significant step toward our goal of transforming HC&S into a large-scale energy farm, playing a key role in securing Hawaii’s energy future."
The company, a unit of Alexander & Baldwin Inc., said its vast fields, access to water, farming infrastructure and labor force make it an ideal candidate to produce biofuels on a large scale.
HC&S has long diverted water from East Maui streams to irrigate its fields in arid Central Maui. But this practice is currently facing challenges.
Taro farmers have petitioned the state’s Commission on Water Resource Management to restore more flow to the streams, and prevent HC&S from diverting its usual volumes of water. The case is pending before the water commission.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who met Wednesday with HC&S and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials about the project, said the research could benefit biofuel development efforts not just in Hawaii but also across the country.
"The sugar industry’s infrastructure in Hawaii … will be put to good use producing a variety of biofuels," said Inouye in a statement issued by the department.
Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) today announced that it is at the center of significant new Hawaii-based research initiatives on biofuels, working closely with the University of Hawaii and various federal agencies to realize the promise of expanded production of clean, renewable energy.
In today’s announcement, HC&S noted support from Sen. Daniel K. Inouye in detailing annual federal funding of at least $4 million that will be made available through two separate programs, one funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the other by the Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), to conduct research at HC&S.
The DOE funding of $2 million annually will be directed to research on energy crop development and energy conversion technologies to be conducted by the University’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). The ONR funding, also $2 million annually, will support complementary crop and technology assessments, as well as an evaluation of long-term resource requirements for biomass production. In announcing the ONR portion of the funding, US Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said the USDA would direct the research initiatives, providing $2 million per year through 2015, to help Hawaii accelerate sustainable biofuel feedstock production.