Pacific Biodiesel hires employees to support feedstock program

By Erin Voegele | June 15, 2011

Hawaii-based Pacific Biodiesel has hired two new employees to support its feedstock development project. Project Manager Matt Johnson and Farm Manager Dan Rudoy have been added to the company’s team. The two will support the cooperative feedstock development program that is being completed with the Army Corps of Engineers Research and Development Center.

According to Johnson, the new project aims to determine the feasibility of producing a variety of different biodiesel feedstock in the Hawaiian Islands. This includes identifying the costs associated with feedstock production and the cost-per-gallon of oil produced. Oilseed crops have not traditionally been produced in the state commercially, he added.

The two-year project will investigate the production of two varieties of sunflower, three varieties of camelina, one variety of flax and one type of chia, Johnson said. Initial acres for the trial will be planted this month. Johnson noted that a total of 100 to 150 acres are expected to be planted as part of the project.

In addition to feedstock cultivation, the project will also address seed crushing, oil extraction, biodiesel production, and final use of the fuel. “Once we process the seeds…we’ll take it to Pacific Biodiesel refineries, and actually test the quality of the oil,” Johnson said, noting the resulting biodiesel fuel will be tested in military equipment.

“We’ve contracted with a group called BioSolar Group, based out of California and Florida,” Johnson continued. That company has experience growing several types of biofuel feedstock on the mainland and will be advising Pacific Biodiesel on everything from agronomy to seed processing.

Data gathered during the program will be used to help support and grow the local biodiesel industry. “For example, if we see a variety of camellia that looks promising, we can then show that information to local farmers, and basically work with them to get [that crop] into production, providing feedstock for biodiesel refineries,” Johnson said. He also noted that Pacific Biodiesel will likely request to continue the project past its current two-year timeline.

Pacific Biodiesel currently operates two biodiesel refineries in Hawaii: one with an annual production capacity of approximately 750,000 gallons per year and the other with an annual production capacity of 1 MMgy. A third refinery is currently under development on the big island. According to Johnson, the annual capacity of the plant under development will be approximately 10 MMgy. While the company currently utilizes waste cooking oils and grease as feedstock, new feedstock sources will likely be needed to support expansion. The hope is the new feedstock trial program will identify agricultural feedstocks that can economically be produced in Hawaii. 


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