US military supports Hawaii biodiesel crop demonstration project

By Bryan Sims | February 16, 2011

This month Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie introduced a new oilseed crop research program—the Biodiesel Crop Demonstration Project—that will span two years as part of the state’s effort to promote energy security and sustainable local agricultural technologies on the islands. The BDC is a collaborative effort between Pacific Biodiesel Inc., the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center and Army Installation Management Command, Pacific.

Joining Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie at the press conference to help launch the project were Marine Corps Base Hawaii Commanding Officer Col. Jeffrey Woods, Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirone and Kelly King, vice president of Pacific Biodiesel. Abercrombie initiated a $2.4 million appropriation for the project during his time as a Hawaii congressman.

“We’ve had huge support from the Army and the Marines,” King told Biodiesel Magazine. “It’s really refreshing to be working with folks in the military who are thinking outside the box and that are looking forward to doing something that’s sustainable and environmentally sound, as well as part of our state’s economic development.”

Now that the BDC is launched, King said the first priority is to hire consultants and project managers to determine which locations are suitable to grow which oilseed crops for biodiesel production. Short-term crops such as sunflower or safflower are likely candidates to be planted as part of the BDC project, King said, at potential sites on the Big Island, Maui and central Oahu.

“We’re looking at planting 100-day crops where, from start to finish, we could have biodiesel in 120 to 130 days,” King said. “Our goal is to show how quickly we could have fuel starting at zero—from seed to fuel.”

King added, ““[The BDC] project isn’t a profit center for Pacific Biodiesel. It’s really just to kick-start the next level of biodiesel production in Hawaii…something that’s beyond just using trap grease and used cooking oil.”

Additionally, the BDC project is expected to draw specialty harvesting equipment into the state, something that’s new to Hawaii from what it has traditionally used to for these types of agricultural practices and applications, King said.

“Hawaii doesn’t have a working combine in the state, or an operating crushing mill,” she said. “This project will be a huge benefit to the community as well as the military because we’ll finally have this type of equipment and, if it’s successful as we intend for it to be, then it will also demonstrate to the community what can be done.”

King said Pacific Biodiesel intends to convert the oils into methyl esters at the company’s Big Island Biodiesel production plant, once construction on the facility is complete.  

“We’ve never had these types of terrestrial crops here before in Hawaii,” King said. “We’ve only had things like sugar, pineapple, coffee, macadamia nuts, and all of those seem to be in various stages of disappearing. There’s a lot of agricultural land around here that really needs to be put back into service before we lose it.”


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