Biorefinery Breaks Ground In Kapolei

West Oahu Islander - Sept 21, 2011
Christina O’Connor

Honeywell’s UOP LLC broke ground last month for its integrated biorefinery facility that will convert biomass into green transportation fuels at the Tesoro Hawaii refinery in Kapolei. The facility will serve as a demonstration unit, which will use a range of local and imported waste to create gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.The biorefinery was sponsored by $25 million in federal funding from the Department of Energy. It joins a list of 18 other biorefinery projects across the nation to receive funds.“This particular project ... is all about demonstrating the technology that we have available that will upgrade biomass,” said Honeywell communications manager Susan Gross. So far, Gross said, the technology has been demonstrated effectively in the lab. “Because this is a demonstration unit, it’s really all about understanding what the options are and what the benefits will be,” she said.This facility is the first of its kind in the world. If all goes well, Honeywell hopes to expand this model into commercial use.State Rep. Sharon Har, state Sen. Mike Gabbard, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and Gov. Neil Abercrombie attended the Aug. 30 groundbreaking. Also present were Becca Smith of the DOE, Tesoro Hawaii vice president Dan Carlson, and Honeywell vice president and general manager for Renewable Energy and Chemicals Jim Rekoske.Gabbard said that he is excited about the project and that it will benefit both the environment and the local economy. “The funding is going to be put to very good use in helping expand our green technology sector and stimulate our economy,” Gabbard said. The demonstration facility is expected to create 80 construction and 40 permanent jobs. If a commercial unit goes forth in the future, Honeywell estimates that it could create up to 1,000 jobs. Furthermore, the biorefinery will employ local vendors to supply and transport the biomass materials.In addition to the local vendors employed, many of the biomass materials also will be derived locally.“This will also be a good example of how we can utilize Hawaiian sources,” Gross said. “That’s kind of the unique thing about this project the focus has really been on using as many biomass feedstocks that are locally available to Hawaii.” Local switchgrass and algae will be used at the facility.But the demonstration facility also will import other biomass, including paper product residue and forest waste from the Mainland. Biomass especially the idea of importing biomass materials has received criticism from environmental groups in recent years. But Gross said that the demonstration unit will allow the effects of importing materials to be tested. “We will be able to do what our industry calls lifecycle analysis, which will give us an understanding of the environmental footprint from the feedstock how it gets to the facility and how it is processed in the facility and an understanding of what the greenhouse gas emissions savings will be,” Gross explained.“[Honeywell] stands strongly behind the idea that these feedstocks are obtained in sustainable practices. There has to be an environmental benefit for these fuels to be made,” Gross adds. “We are using all of what we believe to be sustainable feedstocks that are truly waste products that have no other valuable use.”Gabbard feels that pursuing green transportation fuel is an important component to reducing dependance on oil.