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
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.
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,
“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.
don’t expect the ethanol plant alone to rescue an ailing industry.
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
For WEG, that means tax savings of between $4.8
million and $6 million a year, depending on how much ethanol the company
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
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.
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
The company has a team working on the air-quality issues,
and also still must go through the bond underwriting process, he
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
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
The exact dollar arrangement between the two companies will not
be disclosed, he said.
Alan Kennett, G&R manager, could not be reached
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
Business editor Paul Curtis can be reached at 245-3681 ext. 224