Hawaii PUC Approves Biofuel Testing at Kahe Plant

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved Hawaiian Electric Company’s plan to test biofuel blends in a 90-megawatt (MW) steam turbine generating unit at Kahe Power Plant that presently runs on low sulfur fuel oil (LSFO).

The PUC gave the utility permission to spend up to US $4.7 million on new equipment including pumps and motors, a motor control center, valves and filters and a mixing station to blend biofuel and LSFO. In addition, the PUC approved a contract for Sime Darby, a Malaysian multi-national corporation, to supply 1.575 million gallons of biofuel to be shipped to Kalaeloa Harbor and moved by pipeline to Kahe power plant.

“This test will determine how much biofuel we can mix with petroleum in existing steam turbines that provide power on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island. If successful, using biofuel will reduce our dependence on imported oil, help meet our 40 percent renewable energy goal by 2030 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Accomplishing these goals by fuel switching in our existing generating units rather than building new facilities will save our customers billions of dollars,” said Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric executive vice president.

The Kahe #3 Biofuel Co-firing Demonstration Project will determine how much biofuel (from 50 percent up to a possible 100 percent) can be used in the steam generating units while maintaining compliance with all environmental requirements such as air emission standards and maintaining efficiency of the units.

The test will use crude palm oil blended with palm stearin, a by-product of palm oil refining usually used to make candles and soap. The 30-day test will start in about seven months, after the installation of the new equipment and the arrival of the biofuel.

Hawaiian Electric estimates the test will add a one-time cost of $4 to the typical Oahu residential bill. The Public Utilities Commission directed the utility to spread the cost over two months to reduce the impact on customers.

Earlier this month the PUC approved two other biofuel contracts, including a separate contract for Sime Darby to provide approximately 1 million gallons of palm oil-derived biodiesel for use in Maui Electric Company’s Biodiesel Demonstration Project at its Ma’alaea Power Plant. The biofuel for the Kahe test and biodiesel for the Maui test will be shipped on the same vessel to reduce costs.

In addition, the PUC approved a two-year contract for a subsidiary of Renewable Energy Group to supply 3-7 million gallons of renewable biodiesel annually from used cooking oil (known as yellow grease) and waste animal fat to Hawaiian Electric’s new 110- megawatt combustion turbine generator unit at Campbell Industrial Park Generating Station.

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