Biodiesel refinery expands operations to Kaua‘i
A biodiesel refinery is expanding its operations to Kaua‘i as part of a project to produce renewable biofuel from multiple locally grown oilseed cover crops.
Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, which recycles cooking oil and grease trap residue from restaurants and food service facilities statewide, signed a multi-year agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research and Development Center’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory.
Supporting the U.S. Army Climate Strategy including its priorities to enhance resilience and sustainability of the Army’s military installations, this project will produce a prototype solution for renewable biofuel as well as the agricultural model to produce the fuel in Hawai‘i, according to a press release from from the company.
Building upon Pacific Biodiesel’s previous Hawai‘i Military Biofuel Crop Project research in 2011 to 2015, this project will demonstrate farming at a larger scale of 1,000 acres or more and the production model will support Hawai‘i’s food security, energy security and supply chain resiliency.
“At its core, this project supports Hawai‘i’s circular economy, using local resources and creating local jobs to produce products for our local community while urgently fighting the effects of the climate crisis,” said Pacific Biodiesel Founder and President Robert King.
The project model will include expanded production of culinary oils and other value-added food products, meal for animal feed, biodiesel, and co-products from biodiesel production such as glycerin and potassium salt-cake, which has potential as non-petroleum fertilizer for local agriculture.
Last year, Pacific Biodiesel began supplying its biodiesel to Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative as a source of renewable energy supporting the island’s utility accelerated pathway to 100% renewable electricity production by 2033, more than a decade earlier than the State of Hawai‘i’s mandated timeline of 2045.
Funding for the project was supported by Hawaii’s U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, who serves on several strategic Congressional Committees including Armed Services, and Energy and Natural Resources. She also chairs the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, where she is leading the fight to modernize military infrastructure in Hawaii and across the country.
“This federal funding will help bolster Hawai‘i’s local agriculture industry while decreasing our reliance on expensive imported oil,” said Hirono. “Not only will this project advance our state’s climate and clean energy goals, it will also provide our military installations with a reliable source of renewable fuel while supporting local jobs.”
The project scope includes assessing initial production of the multi-feedstock prototype fuel, beginning with biodiesel produced from 100% virgin oil using oilseed cover crops grown and processed in Hawai‘i, the release states. The effort will also allow for the renewable fuel prototype to be validated in meeting military energy requirements and help to verify the economics and viability of supporting an off-grid operation.
Comprehensive agricultural modeling for a variety of appropriate energy crops will be completed to assess viability and benefits of farming these biofuel cover crops in Hawai‘i’s climate and in rotation with other food crops to support greater contributions to Hawaii’s circular economy. Pacific Biodiesel will increase its ag processing equipment and capability which will move from Hawai‘i Island to Kaua‘i, utilizing the feedstock oil to produce biodiesel at its Hawai‘i Island refinery to enable real-time testing and performance validation.
The prototype fuel will be tested to ensure compliance with ASTM D6751 and will be validated on biofuel compliant military power generation platforms.
Farming will be done in close coordination with existing commercial farmers, initially on Gay & Robinson, Inc. land. Pacific Biodiesel will coordinate with local farmers to use new and existing fields for rotational oilseed cover crops. Additional infrastructure will be provided by this project to enable scaled-up planting, harvesting, and processing of oilseeds for renewable fuel and co-products, leveraging local labor to oversee farming and production.
“This project is strategically centered on an established farming model developed by biodiesel producer, Pacific Biodiesel. Given previous research and development on the farming and oil production model that has occurred over the last decade, the proposed prototype solution presents lowered risk level and is technically mature to enable a high level of readiness,” said Tarek Abdallah, an engineer at USACE ERDC’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory.
For half a decade, Pacific Biodiesel founders Bob and Kelly King with their company Maiden Hawaii Naturals, LLC have been farming sunflowers and other oilseed cover crops as a feedstock for local biodiesel production and for the local production of culinary oils and animal feed.
The community-scale production currently centers on sunflower oil from crops farmed on Maui and macadamia oil from waste culls sourced on Hawai‘i Island.