‘ĀINA KOA PONO – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
‘Āina Koa Pono (AKP) is developing a renewable diesel fuel using crops grown on approximately 12,000 acres of private land in Pāhala on the Island of Hawai‘i. AKP will produce 16 million gallons of biodiesel for HELCO, and another 8 million gallons for commercial transportation and other uses.
- How would AKP impact the state and local economies?
AKP’s biorefinery will help to create a new industry. We estimate that in terms of present value, our biofuel project will increase state revenues from general excise and personal income taxes by a total of $174 million over 22 years. This compares to a $1.5 million in tax revenues if the use of imported fossil fuels continues at HELCO’s Keāhole power plant.The local economy should benefit greatly from locally available high-paying jobs and the creation of new businesses to support the additional jobs created. We project that approximately 200 permanent jobs would be created by this project, with an additional 400 construction jobs during development. We hope to fill as many of the jobs as possible with local hires. AKP is committed to supporting the community, and we are working with stakeholders to provide a meaningful Island Benefits Package.
- What is AKP’s agreement with HELCO?
HELCO has signed a contract to buy 16 million gallons a year of locally produced biofuel to power its generators at its Keāhole power plant on the Island of Hawai‘i. The contract calls for AKP to supply biofuel to HELCO at a fixed price over 20 years beginning in 2015, thereby providing significant security from potentially wide price swings in petroleum due to unpredictable geo-political events. The contract also puts the utility on track to meet its commitment of generating 40 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
- What is biomass?
Biomass is any carbon-based organic material comprised of large complex hydrocarbon molecules and generally exists as a solid at normal temperatures and pressures–typical examples include green material such as lumber, grasses, bushes, plastics, synthetic and natural fabrics like nylon, polyester, cotton, paper and cardboard, food waste, and tires. AKP’s Ka‘ū project proposes to process many different types of biomass, likely beginning with invasive species in the area.
- What technology will be used for producing biofuel?
AKP will be using an established technology called Microwave Catalytic Depolymerization (Micro Dee). This technology applies heat and pressure to organic material to produce biofuel and biochar. Micro Dee breaks down lignin and cellulosic molecules into shorter chain hydrocarbons that exist in the liquid fuel range, thereby generating synthetic crude oil that can be easily refined to useable fuels using traditional processing technologies. In a nutshell, the Micro Dee process accelerates the natural decomposition and metamorphosis of biomass to crude oil to 50 minutes. AKP will produce a renewable synthetic fuel or “drop-in” fuel with the same properties as fossil fuel. “Drop-in” fuel is biofuel that can literally be “dropped into” the fuel bank without further processing. It can be used for electricity generation as well as all forms of ground, marine and air transportation.
- Is Micro Dee a proven technology?
Yes. AKP’s engineering, procurement and construction management partner, AECOM Technology Corporation, has completed testing on AKP’s processing technology at a demonstration facility in North Carolina. Test results have met or exceeded projections, and AECOM has determined the Micro Dee process, now a second generation technology, to be optimal for renewable liquid fuel production.
- Will AKP grow its own feedstock?
AKP will develop our biodiesel using crops grown on private land in Pāhala. The Hawaiian Islands Land Trust will review AKP’s planned use of approximately 12,000 acres it has leased from the Edmund C. Olson Trust II and the Mallick Trust. Initially, we intend to harvest and process existing and invasive biomass species, such as Christmas berry, and to harvest eucalyptus trees. AKP is analyzing the land and soil types on the property and is working with Hawai‘i Agricultural Research Center (HARC) to integrate the appropriate feedstock crops. We intend to incorporate the testing and protocols developed by HARC and to implement appropriate weed control and proven eradication protocols. We will cultivate long-term tree crops, sweet sorghum varieties, non-seeding napier grass, and other feedstock that will have been tested and proven by HARC.
- What is AKP’s plan for clearing the land? Will this increase the risk of erosion and/or flooding?
AKP will not be clearing or harvesting thousands or even hundreds of acres at one time. The perennial energy grasses re-grow after each harvest. Areas cleared by bulldozing will be remediated with biochar recovered from the fuel process and replanted with appropriate feedstock. There is little exposure of soil during all phases of planting and harvesting cycles.
- Does the proposed project require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Assessment (EA)?
No. However, AKP has engaged the services of R. M. Towill Corporation to prepare a voluntary assessment of environmental issues. We will verify the safety of the Micro Dee process and of storing and transporting our biofuel, address issues and concerns raised by the community and develop mitigation measures appropriate to the site and community.
- Will AKP offer jobs to local families or bring workers from O‘ahu and the mainland?
Our renewable biofuels facility is expected to create more than 200 permanent management, professional, operations, maintenance, agricultural and administrative jobs, in addition to 400 construction jobs over a three-year period. We hope to fill as many of the jobs as possible with local hires. It does not make sense to bring in outside personnel unless the capability is not available locally. AKP has initiated meetings with Big Island Labor Alliance, Work Hawaii, and the University of Hawai‘i. We will work with the County Planning Department, Ka‘ū High School, and unions to develop training programs to fill our needs.