Biodiesel projects proceed in Hawaii

By Susanne Retka Schill | November 20, 2007
Although Hawaii has encouraged renewable fuels for some time, recent reports of two new efforts are welcome. In announcing a grant award for jatropha in Hawaii, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, said the state's electricity rate is more than three times the national average at 41.04 cents per kilowatt-hour. Current fuel prices are approximately $3.20 per gallon of gas and $3.50 per gallon of diesel.

Early in October, Akaka's office announced that the Hawaiian County Economic Opportunity Council received a $677,000 grant to develop a business for cloning and mass cultivating jatropha seedlings, an oil-bearing feedstock for biodiesel production. The grant was awarded under the Community Economic Development Program administered by the Office of Community Services within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant's goal is to create jobs for about 70 people in an area where the state's unemployment is highest, and produce 3 million jatropha seedlings within three years. George Yokoyama, director of the council, said it will be utilizing a tissue culture lab that has previously worked on orchids, green tea, vanilla and bamboo. "We want to come up with superior plants with more oil content," he said. Jatropha seedlings will be sold to growers and companies interested in starting jatropha plantations.

Also in October, Hawaiian Electric Company Inc. filed an application with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission for a biodiesel supply contract for its new 110-megawatt Campbell Industrial Park generating station, scheduled to open in 2009. HECO awarded an exclusive contract to Seattle-based Imperium Renewables Inc. to supply between 5 million and 12 million gallons of biodiesel per year through 2011. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, although it does call for Imperium to give preference to locally grown feedstocks.

Imperium, which opened a 100 MMgy biodiesel plant in Gray's Harbor, Wash., is in the permitting phase for a similarly sized plant on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. The company is working with local groups to determine the best feedstock in the state. Until that is determined, Imperium has pledged to import feedstocks that meet the standards established by HECO and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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