REVIVAL! Hawai'i Bi-O style: elite squad of scientists aim to boost Hawaii via bioenergy

October 26, 2010 |

Readers of a certain age will well remember the long-running series of commercials for Hawaiian-grown “C&H” cane sugar, with its lilting Hawaiian music, and simple lyrics proclaiming: “C&H pure cane sugar – From Hawaii, sweetened in the sun, island sugar growing, pure fresh and clean, C&H, that’s the one.”

If you haven’t, they are well worth a look, and here they are. It’ll put a big smile in your day, especially for those who wonder where all those nice, traditional values disappeared to.

Its impossible to have seen the commercials and not have the indelible impression that Hawaii is a paradise for growing sugar cane, and be saddened by the steady decline of the industry over the past generation. These days there is only one commercial-scale sugarcane plantation still in operation on the island.

REVIVAL! is our theme this month in the Digest, and there are bright signs in Hawaii for the revival of island agriculture, based on the demand for bioenergy.

A paradise for bioenergy

In fact, Hawaii is a code word meaning “paradise” not only to sun-starved tourists, but to bioenergy developers. It has all the hallmarks of the “perfect market”.

1. A state that generates no energy from fossil fuels and must import its energy over vast distances;
2. A state dependent on a biofuels-hungry aviation industry not only for tourism, but inter-island travel for families and workers;
3. A state where the biofuels-hungry military, especially the market-leading US Navy, has a huge impact on energy demand and employment;
4. An abundance of water and sunshine that fosters the fast growth of feedstocks from eucalyptus to sugarcane to algae.
5. A state government that has advanced quickly in signing partnerships with DOE, USDA and DOD to foster the growth of bioenergy.

For that reason, it seems from time to time that all roads lead to the Hawaiian Islands, and that any route to biofuels commercialization passes through Waikiki. REVIVAL! of Hawaiian’s economic base may well depend on it — for the islands are beset by high fuels costs and the specter of more troubles if a price on carbon appears.

For sure, REVIVAL! of the state’s once-proud agricultural base will depend on it. The good news is that a collection of companies, military planners, utilities and state and federal officials have pulled together to assemble an impressive portfolio of projects in the islands. They have expanded beyond cane to include hardwoods, jatropha, and especially algae. But lioke the old C&H ads proclaim, they are all pure, fresh and clean, and sweetened in the sun.

Drop-in renewable fuels

ClearFuels Technology announced that Ulupono Initiative has made an initial investment of both financial capital and management engagement in ClearFuels. Ulupono will support ClearFuels’ Bridge financing and partner with the ClearFuels team to develop commercial biofuels projects in Hawaii.  Ulupono Initiative is a Hawaii-focused social investment organization rooted in the local wisdom that a healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand-in-hand. The organization focuses on improving sustainability and the quality of life for island residents in three areas, renewable energy, food production and waste reduction. Ulupono is funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam.

SunFuels has said that it is seeking up to 37,000 acres of Hawaiian state land for production and harvest of eucalyptus. The company uses a proprietary Carbon-V gasification progress to convert biomass to diesel fuel, and projected yields of up to 18 Mgy from 37,000 acres. The company’s process also works with construction lumber waste and municipal solid waste.

Green Earth Technologies announced that they will be selling “G-Oil”, a bio based Full Synthetic SAE 5w-30 Motor Oil and targeted Hawaii among other majkets for the product.  This is the first bio based motor oil to pass all of The American Petroleum Institute (API) SM Certification, and has been granted the API “Donut.”
The product will marketed in 7 states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana and Texas.  Jeffrey Loch, Green Earth Technologies’ Found and CMO noted “The Quick-Lubes distribution opens the doors for high quality one-on-one interactions with consumers.”  The company’s press release notes this product will “have no harsh effects on the environment, and cut dependence on foreign oil and offshore drilling.”

Algal-based fuels

In June, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Cathy Zoi announced the investment of up to $9 million for a Cellana-led research consortium based in Kailua-Kona. The consortium will examine large-scale production of fuels and feed from microalgae grown in seawater. Tasks include integrating new algal harvesting technologies with pilot-scale cultivation test beds, and developing marine microalgae as animal feed for the aquaculture industry.

Phycal announced that it has signed with engineering, procurement, and construction management firm SSOE Group to perform preliminary engineering design for the company’s new 40-acre pilot algae farm in Central Oahu, Hawaii. Phycal was competitively selected by the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to receive $3 million in funding in Phase One to complete its feasibility plan, obtain the necessary Federal, State and County permitting, and to perform necessary environmental reviews.

Hawaiian Utilities

This past summer, the Hawaii PUC approved a biodiesel supply contract with Renewable Energy Group and its REG Marketing & Logistics Group affiliate. The two-year contract calls for REG to supply biodiesel to HECO’s CT-1 combustion turbine unit at Campbell Estate Industrial Park, as well as other HECO operating units, in an order totaling up to 14 million gallons, with a minimum order of three million gallons per year.
The cost-plus pricing formula will be based solely on biodiesel produced from waste oils and animal fats.

Hawaiian Electric issued an RFP to supply renewable biofuel sustainably produced from local Hawaii feedstock to potentially procure future supplies for existing generating units on Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii Island.. Submission deadline is June 18, 2010 with the goal of completing contract negotiations in 2010 for consideration by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission .

Hawaiian Electric Company signed a contract with a subsidiary of Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group to supply three to seven million gallons of renewable biodiesel per year for two years to be used for Hawaiian Electric’s new 110-megawatt combustion turbine generator unit at Campbell Industrial Park Generating Station.
The agreement calls for REG to supply high quality biodiesel processed from used cooking oil and waste animal fat. The contract has been submitted to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission for approval, with input from the Hawaii Division of Consumer Advocacy. Delivery of the biodiesel could begin within about four months of PUC approval.

Pacific West Energy says that it had reached an agreement with Kaua’i Island Utility Co-op critical to its development of a planned 15 Mgy sugar ethanol and 30 MW power facility. Pacific West, which lost landowner and sugar cane planter Gay & Robinson as a project partner this fall, is proceeding to raise $125 million for the first sugarcane ethanol plant in the US. Numerous employees from the Gay & Robinson sugar cane plantation are expected to transfer over to the new project, which would lease land from G&R, which previously said it will cease sugar harvesting in 2010.

Biodiesel, waste greases and and jatropha

In June, details emerged regarding the techniques Pacific Biodiesel has developed to increase waste oil feedstock aggregation. The company’s newsletter details expansion of its “Cleanway” oil collection and grease trap maintenance services to Maui restaurants, and development of its Restaurants For Renewables program, “a great way to let your customers know that you support a locally produced, sustainable and environmentally friendly fuel.”
Participating restaurants receive a decal or certificate to display at your restaurant, “showcasing to the public that you care about Hawaii’s clean, sustainable future”  The program has operated successfully on Oahu in recent years.

HIPPO (Hawaii Pure Plant Oil), the first commercial biofuel plantation in the islands, said that it will expand production from 250 acres to 1000 through land leases after test results from a two-year jatropha cultivation project yielded its first test gallons of biodiesel.
Pacific Biodiesel, which will convert the jatropha oil into biodiesel, said that the state of Hawaii has the potential to produce up to 22 Mgy of biodiesel from energy crops grown in the state, comported to the 3.9 Mgy capacity of the Tesoro Hawaii crude oil refinery’s capacity.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that Big Island Biodiesel, of Hawaii will receive a $5,000,000 loan guarantee through First Hawaiian Bank in Kahului to construct a $10 million, 2.64 million gallon per year biodiesel production plant in Keaau. The feedstock for this biodiesel plant will primarily be used cooking oil, and potentially jatropha and algae. More than one million gallons of used cooking oil and grease-trap oil will be diverted from Maui, Oahu, and Hawaii County landfills to produce the biodiesel. Hawaii has established an Alternative Fuel Standard (AFS) with the goal of providing 10 percent of highway fuel demand from alternate fuels by 2010, 15 percent by 2015, and 20 percent by 2020.

Military biofuels

In September, the Defense Energy Support Center posted a Request for Informationon FedBizOpps this past Friday.  This is DESC’s first step toward procurement of commercial, as opposed to test, quantities of aviation and marine biofuels for military use. The RFI is to determine industry interest, capacity, and desired terms for delivery of bio-derived fuel in the state of Hawaii for use by Pacific Command military forces, in support of the Pacific Command’s Green Initiative for Fuels Transition effort. The RFI was published in FedBizOpps on June 25th, solicitation #DESCBCRFI001.  The response deadline is July 30th and there will be a formal Industry Forum for face-to-face meetings with the DESC representatives, tentatively scheduled for Sep 3rd in Honolulu Hawaii.

The Office of Naval Research signed a five-year research program to relaunch a Maui-based sugarcane industry capable of providing biofuel for Navy ships and aircraft. 35,000 acres at the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar, the last working sugarcane plantation in Hawaii, will be used for testing advanced canes as well as other biofuel crops including sweet sorghum and jatropha.
The plantation said it would expect to produce commercial-scale biofuels by 2015, contributing towards the US Navy goal of 50 percent renewables by 2020 and the Hawaii goal of 70 percent renewables by 2030. The Navy and the USDA had previously signed a cooperation agreement for the development of biofuels.

The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company said that it intends to be a key player in R&D relating to the development of the US Navy’s Green Strike Force, planned for 2012, and Green Fleet in 2016, that will both employ biofuels to strengthen energy security and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company is participating in a $2 million research program funded by the DOE to research energy crop development, and a $2 million grant from the Navy will support crop and technology assessments and a resource study for biofuels feedstocks. The Navy has set a goal of cutting its fossil petroleum use in half by 2015 in its non-tactical fleet of 50,000 vehicles.

The USDA and the US Navy hosted a a Hawaii Renewable Energy and BioEnergy Industry Forum, last April  at the Marine Corp Base Hawaii Officer’s Club, Lanai Ballroom. The purpose of the Hawaii Renewable Energy and BioEnergy Industry Forum is to formally announce the MOU partnership between the USDA and the DoN and to present information about the initiatives that are occurring in Hawaii at a public information event. Biofuel generation, renewable energy technologies, electric vehicles and battery energy storage are among the topics.

BONUS: Demand from the US Navy and DOD-wide: a special report on military biofuels

The Navy’s long term strategy is to supply 50% of its energy from renewables by 2020.

How much is that? Well, statistics on energy consumption from the Department Energy Supply Center (DESC) generally are DoD-wide, but for fiscal 2009, DESC purchased 5.42 billion gallons of fuel, of which 80 percent represented jet fuel and most of the remainder represented diesel fuels. At this time, military biofuels are generally approved for 50 percent blends in aviation, which thereby creates a potential demand of around 3.2 billion gallons for US military biofuels in the near term.

The Drop-in fuel imperative. Although worldwide ethanol and biodiesel capacity far outstrips these volumes, the military is requiring drop-in renewable fuels – having no appetite on the large scale for any risks or implementation issues associated with the use of first-generation ethanol or biodiesel – in the case of ethanol, the blend wall; in the case of biodiesel, gelling issues and performance under aviation conditions. Some quibble about these concerns, but “the customer is always right”.

The delivery time scales. The Navy wants to fuel a Green Strike Force by 2012 with renewable fuels, and we don’t yet have precise figures for that demand, but think in the tens of millions of gallons per year rather than the hundreds of millions. A non-nuclear aircraft carrier like the USS Independence uses 150,000 gallons of fuel per day at top speed, and generally consumes 100,000 gallons per day in standard sea operations. Double that for the fuel to supply the jet aircraft on board, if there are continuing operations, as would be expected in a Strike Force.

The scale of military demand

Here’s a good factoid: the two-week airlift of supplies assembled for Operation Desert Shield in 1990-91, exceeded the entire 1945 Berlin Airlift in terms of tonnage.

But military fuel is a special category – by weight, it represents two-thirds of all military shipments.

Why? B-52s use 3,600 gallons per hour. The F-15 fighters, with their afterburners on, consume 14,400 gallons per hour, and 1500 gallons per hour at peak thrust.

It’s more than just the engines and the aircraft. The Navy uses liquid fuels to generate all its power, and purify all its water.

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