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Hawaii plans biorefinery

April 13, 2012 at 1:25 PM   |   Comments

HONOLULU, April 13 (UPI) -- A biorefinery is planned for Hawaii to help wean the state off imported fuel.

UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, has completed construction on the first phase of its integrated biorefinery plant in Kapolei, 14 miles from Honolulu, and it hopes to be producing test fuel by next year, Honolulu's Civil Beat reports.

Honeywell's UOP says the facility will be the nation's first integrated biorefinery for making bio-based versions of a full range of fuels more commonly made from petroleum.

Hawaii imports about 45 million barrels of oil annually, all of which must be shipped in by supertanker.

While the transportation sector leads energy demand in Hawaii, due in large part to heavy jet fuel use by military installations and commercial airlines, petroleum-fired power plants supply more than three-fourths of the state's electricity generation.

As part of its Clean Energy Initiative launched in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy in 2008, Hawaii aims to achieve 70 percent clean energy by 2030.

The Honeywell UOP plant is backed by a $25 million U.S. Department of Energy award.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to make a product, which is in demand in Hawaii, which is expensive in Hawaii, from land that is not being productively used," Jim Rekoske, vice president of Renewable Energy for Honeywell's UOP, told Scientific American.

The plant is being constructed on land that used to be used for pineapple crops.

At the facility, biomass -- including components of Hawaiian crops, such as macadamia nuts and sugarcane -- will be ground into small pieces and dried. The small bits will then go through a process called pyrolysis, which uses sand heated to 500 degrees Celsius that transforms the material to an oil vapor in less than 800 milliseconds, Honeywell's UOP says.

The residue, or char, is used to reheat the sand.

The oil vapor, meanwhile, is condensed into a liquid fuel that can be upgraded and processed to make fuel used for transportation and industrial boilers, without the sulfur pollution associated with petroleum-refined products.

"The idea is to demonstrate that the combination of our pyrolysis and our upgrading technology provides superior economic returns for people who own biomass and want to turn it into transportation fuels," Rekoske said.

"We'll show the world this ravenous teenager of a technology we have that can eat anything and turn it into transportation fuel."

When the biorefinery plant is complete next year, Honeywell's UOP says, it will be able to make everything from gasoline to jet fuel.

"The idea is to make a whole barrel of product out of the biorefinery," Rekoske says.

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