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Pacific Biodiesel awarded federal funds to develop Hawaiʻi Agriculture-Based Biofuel Model : Maui Now

  • Pacific Biodiesel Founders Bob and Kelly King visit the warehouse on Kauai where the company has expanded its operations and has relocated its agriculture processing equipment from Hawaii Island.

  • Pacific Biodiesel’s Bob King and James Twigg-Smith joined Gay & Robinson, Inc. Vice President Howard Greene to take in the view from atop the first of three 32-feet tall silos at the Kauai site, each with a capacity of 330,000 pounds of seed,

  • Tom Smude, President of Midwest Sales & Construction, LLC, and Pacific Biodiesel President Bob
    King inspect three silos being assembled by Smude’s team at the Kauai site.

  • Unloading the company’s bottling line equipment at Pacific Biodiesel’s new Kauai crushing mill warehouse are (on left) George Twigg-Smith, production manager, Maiden Hawaii Naturals, LLC and James Twigg-Smith, director of agriculture operations, Pacific Biodiesel.LC and James Twigg-Smith, director of agriculture operations, Pacific Biodiesel.

  • Pacific Biodiesel project team members complete a site visit at the company’s new crushing mill on Kauai. Pictured from left are George Twigg-Smith, production manager; James Twigg-Smith, director of agriculture operations; Pacific Biodiesel founders Kelly and Bob King, and Tarek Abdallah, an engineer at USACE ERDC’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory.

  • In the new facility’s bottling room, Pacific Biodiesel President Bob King points out the multiple large-scale silos and seed handling systems adjacent to the new crushing mill warehouse on Kauai. With him (L to R) are George Twigg-Smith, production manager; James Twigg-Smith, director of agriculture operations; Pacific Biodiesel co-founder Kelly King and Tom Smude, President of Midwest Sales & Construction, LLC

  • Finishing a site tour of the first phase of the project are L to R President of Midwest Sales & Construction, LLC Tom Smude, Gay & Robinson, Inc. Vice President Howard Greene, Pacific Biodiesel Co-founders Bob and Kelly King, Gay & Robinson, Inc. President Brian Yamaste and Pacific Biodiesel Director of Agriculture Operations James Twigg-Smith.

Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, LLC has expanded its operations to Kauaʻi as part of a multi-year agreement signed last year with the US Army Corps of Engineers to demonstrate a renewable biofuel produced in Hawaiʻi from multiple locally grown oilseed cover crops.

The agreement is with the USACE’s Engineer Research and Development Center’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, and supports the US Army Climate Strategy.

The strategy includes 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 Hawaiʻi. The effort will further validate the transition to this drop-in fuel for military application, including power generation installations.

Building upon Pacific Biodiesel’s previous Hawaiʻi 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 aims to support Hawaiʻi’s food security, energy security and supply chain resiliency. 

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This project is based on Kauaʻi, where the Maui-based Pacific Biodiesel last year began supplying its biodiesel to KIUC as a source of renewable energy supporting the Kauaʻi utility’s accelerated pathway to 100% renewable electricity production by 2033, more than a decade earlier than the State of Hawaiʻi’s mandated timeline of 2045.

“At its core, this project supports Hawaiʻi’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. 

Funding for the project was supported by Hawaiʻi’s US Senator 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 Hawaiʻi and across the country. 

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“This federal funding will help bolster Hawaii’s local agriculture industry while decreasing our reliance on expensive imported oil,” said Sen. Hirono in a news release. “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 Hawaiʻi. 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 Hawaii’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 Hawaiʻi Island to Kauaʻi, utilizing the feedstock oil to produce biodiesel at its Hawaiʻi 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.

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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. ERDC is the R&D arm of USACE.

Founded on Maui in 1995, Pacific Biodiesel annually produces more than 5.5 million gallons of premium distilled biodiesel at its refinery on Hawaiʻi Island. The biodiesel is currently produced primarily from used cooking oil and grease trap residue recycled from restaurants and food service facilities statewide.

For half a decade, Pacific Biodiesel founders Bob and Kelly King with their company Maiden Hawaiʻi 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 Hawaiʻi Island. 

Pacific Biodiesel is headquartered on Maui, with nearly 100 employees statewide, including 50 currently working at its Keaʻau refinery on Hawaiʻi Island. Pacific Biodiesel Awarded Federal Funding to Develop Hawaiʻi Agriculture-Based Biofuel Model.

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