Ethanol plant could handleisland’s waste

KAUMAKANI — Ground will be broken in the first part of next year for an

ethanol-producing plant which could accommodate all of the county’s collected

trash, better the air quality of Kaumakani and reduce the state’s dependence on

imported oil for cars and trucks.

Before you start saying “If it sounds too

good to be true, it probably is,” read further about Worldwide Energy Group’s

plan for the plant.

Ethanol, an alcohol-based fuel, can be added to regular

gasoline in a 10-percent ethanol, 90-percent gasoline mixture without any

adverse impacts on a vehicle’s performance.

The plant, to be built near Gay

& Robinson’s sugar mill here, will convert municipal solid waste, bagasse,

molasses and other “feed stock” into ethanol, said Dan KenKnight, Worldwide

Energy Group (WEG) president.

Construction of the plant is expected to take

18 to 24 months, at a cost of between $50 million and $60 million, he told The

Garden Island.

The Kaua’i Ethanol Project will have the capacity to produce

12 million to 15 million gallons of ethanol per year.

Since Kauaians pump

23 to 24 million gallons of gasoline into their rides annually, the island can

currently consume only 2.3 million to 2.4 million gallons of ethanol a year.

That means a majority of the ethanol, a liquid fuel, will be shipped

off-island for use elsewhere in the state, KenKnight said.

Ethanol can also

be blended with diesel fuel or waste cooking oils produced from crops to

produce biodiesel as an alternative to diesel fuel.

KenKnight said the

ethanol plant could burn all of the island’s municipal solid waste.

WEG is

not bidding on the county’s solid-waste contract, but G&R is. If G&R is

the successful bidder, WEG would be happy to convert all of the waste,

KenKnight said.

“We’re there, we’re available, we could take all of it if

they so choose,” he said.

WEG plans to proceed with its plant regardless of

the outcome of the county solid-waste contract process, even if G&R gets

the bid and decides to handle the county’s municipal solid waste with another

technology, he noted.

In the critical state that the domestic sugar

industry is in, G&R can get better money for its molasses by selling it to

WEG than it can shipping it off-island to other markets for other uses.

But

don’t expect the ethanol plant alone to rescue an ailing industry.

“In and

of itself, ethanol will not save sugar,” KenKnight stressed. “In order for

these sugar companies to stay in business, they have to do something to get

higher value for their byproducts,” he said.

WEG has in-hand a new law

passed by the Legislature this year and signed into law last month by Gov. Ben

Cayetano, offering tax credits of 40 cents a gallon to producers of

fuel-quality ethanol.

For WEG, that means tax savings of between $4.8

million and $6 million a year, depending on how much ethanol the company

produces.

Cayetano also signed a law authorizing the issuance of up to $50

million in special-purpose revenue bonds to assist WEG in the planning, design,

construction and operation of the plant.

The bonds don’t require use of

taxpayer money, but rather offer companies like WEG lower interest

rates.

The company is hoping that an environmental assessment, versus a

more detailed environmental impact statement, is all that will be required from

the state before construction of the plant is allowed.

“The biggest

limiting factor right now would be permitting,” KenKnight said of acquiring a

state Department of Health clean air permit.

“Our process should improve

air quality, so we don’t anticipate any problems. But until you get in the

middle of it, you just don’t know what kind of permitting issues are going to

be coming up.

“Our process, when married with a mill, will definitely

reduce the amount of emissions, collectively, that comes out of that area. A

lot of the emissions that the mill now has would be reduced or eliminated by

our process.”

The company has a team working on the air-quality issues,

and also still must go through the bond underwriting process, he

continued.

An ethanol industry in Hawai’i will create new skilled jobs,

assist in the preservation of existing agricultural jobs, and bring millions of

dollars of construction money into the state, said KenKnight, who was raised in

Hawai’i.

The relationship between WEG and G&R is “symbiotic,” he said,

with G&R providing WEG land and feed stock (trash, bagasse, molasses) to

power the plant, and WEG providing G&R added value to its bagasse and

molasses.

The exact dollar arrangement between the two companies will not

be disclosed, he said.

Alan Kennett, G&R manager, could not be reached

for comment.

WEG is a three-year-old company. But it has joined forces with

a company which has built more than 70 ethanol plants in nearly 20 countries,

and holds several patents for the various technologies, KenKnight

said.

Business editor Paul Curtis can be reached at 245-3681 ext. 224

or pcurtis@pulitzer.net

0 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.