Pacific Biodiesel founders Bob and Kelly King visit the warehouse on Kauai where the company has expanded its operations and has relocated its agriculture processing equipment from Hawaii Island. Image courtesy of Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, LLC

Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, LLC announced the company has expanded its operations to Kauai as part of a multi-year agreement signed last year with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) to demonstrate a renewable biofuel produced in Hawaii from multiple locally grown oilseed cover crops.

Supporting the U.S. Army Climate Strategy, including its priorities to enhance resilience and sustainability of the Army’s military installations, this project will produce a prototype solution for renewable biofuel as well as the agricultural model to produce the fuel in Hawaii. The effort will further validate the transition to this drop-in fuel for military application, including power generation installations.

Building upon Pacific Biodiesel’s previous Hawaii Military Biofuel Crop Project research in 2011 to 2015, this project will demonstrate farming at a larger scale of 1,000 acres or more and the production model will support Hawaii’s food security, energy security and supply chain resiliency.

This project is based on Kauai, where Pacific Biodiesel last year began supplying its biodiesel to KIUC as a source of renewable energy supporting the Kauai utility’s accelerated pathway to 100% renewable electricity production by 2033, more than a decade earlier than the State of Hawaii’s mandated timeline of 2045.

“At its core, this project supports Hawaii’s circular economy, using local resources and creating local jobs to produce products for our local community while urgently fighting the effects of the climate crisis,” said Pacific Biodiesel founder and president Robert King. The project model will include expanded production of culinary oils and other value-added food products, meal for animal feed, biodiesel, and co-products from biodiesel production such as glycerin and potassium salt-cake, which has potential as non-petroleum fertilizer for local agriculture.

Funding for the project was supported by Hawaii’s U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono, who serves on several strategic Congressional Committees including Armed Services, and Energy and Natural Resources. She also chairs the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, where she is leading the fight to modernize military infrastructure in Hawaii and across the country.

“This federal funding will help bolster Hawaii’s local agriculture industry while decreasing our reliance on expensive imported oil,” said Senator Hirono. “Not only will this project advance our state’s climate and clean energy goals, it will also provide our military installations with a reliable source of renewable fuel while supporting local jobs.”

The project scope includes assessing initial production of the multi-feedstock prototype fuel, beginning with biodiesel produced from 100% virgin oil using oilseed cover crops grown and processed in Hawaii. The effort will also allow for the renewable fuel prototype to be validated in meeting military energy requirements and help to verify the economics and viability of supporting an off-grid operation.

Comprehensive agricultural modeling for a variety of appropriate energy crops will be completed to assess viability and benefits of farming these biofuel cover crops in Hawaii’s climate and in rotation with other food crops to support greater contributions to Hawaii’s circular economy.

Pacific Biodiesel will increase its ag processing equipment and capability which will move from Hawaii Island to Kauai, utilizing the feedstock oil to produce biodiesel at its Hawaii Island refinery to enable real-time testing and performance validation. The prototype fuel will be tested to ensure compliance with ASTM D6751 and will be validated on biofuel compliant military power generation platforms.

Farming will be done in close coordination with existing commercial farmers, initially on Gay & Robinson, Inc. land. Pacific Biodiesel will coordinate with local farmers to use new and existing fields for rotational oilseed cover crops. Additional infrastructure will be provided by this project to enable scaled-up planting, harvesting, and processing of oilseeds for renewable fuel and co-products, leveraging local labor to oversee farming and production.

“This project is strategically centered on an established farming model developed by biodiesel producer, Pacific Biodiesel. Given previous research and development on the farming and oil production model that has occurred over the last decade, the proposed prototype solution presents lowered risk level and is technically mature to enable a high level of readiness,” said Tarek Abdallah, an engineer at USACE ERDC’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. ERDC is the R&D arm of USACE.