Hawaii companies to build microalgae facility

By Susanne Retka Schill | July 14, 2008
Web exclusive posted July 23, 2008 at 9:00 a.m. CST

Algae biofuels in Hawaii are one step closer to reality with the announcement of the joint development of a commercial-scale microalgae facility on the island of Maui.

HR BioPetroleum, Alexander & Baldwin Inc., Hawaiian Electric Co., and Maui Electric Co., subsidiaries of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. announced July 16 that they have signed a memoranda of understanding to develop a commercial-scale microalgae facility on the island of Maui. The facility will produce lipid oil to be used in producing biodiesel and other products, such as animal feed.

Under agreement, HR BioPetroleum will be responsible for overall project management, including obtaining financing, construction and operation of the microalgae facility. Alexander & Baldwin will provide land adjacent to the power plant operated by Maui Electric Industries where the algae production ponds and processing plant will be built. Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric will lead in determining the permitting and construction needs for piping to carry stack gases containing carbon dioxide to feed the algae facility.

According to Hawaiian Electric, the first phase of the commercial facility could be in operation by 2011 if preliminary milestones are met as planned. Those factors include confirmation of algae performance data from HR BioPetroleum's pilot and demonstration facilities, receipt of required regulatory approvals, formation of a special purpose entity, project financing and the signing of definitive agreements with the parties involved.

In 2007, HR BioPetroleum and Royal Dutch Shell PLC formed a separate joint venture to operate a demonstration facility in Hawaii to grow marine algae and produce oil for conversion into biodiesel. The goal is to produce biofuel feedstocks while simultaneously reducing industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.

Hawaii-based Alexander & Baldwin, which has divisions involved in real estate, ocean freight, sugar and coffee, has been producing renewable energy in Hawaii for more than 100 years using biomass and hydro-electric generations on both Maui and Kauai, according Allen Doane, chairman and chief executive officer. "We are excited about the promise of algae as another renewable energy source and we look forward to the potential reduction in imported oil and greenhouse gas emissions it represents."

"This project entails some uncertainty," said Karl Stahlkopf, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for energy solutions and chief technology officer. "Stepping forward to be a first implementer of a new idea always does. However, it unites the best of the new Hawaii high-tech industry with two long-established Hawaii infrastructure companies in a unique partnership."
 
 
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