Pacific Biodiesel, America’s longest operating biodiesel company, has been producing biodiesel in Hawaii for nearly 30 years and is an internationally respected leader in renewable fuels. Now this pioneering company is spearheading a significant expansion of agriculture for food and renewable energy in Hawaii that’s helping to create jobs, fight climate change, support energy security and food security, and grow Hawaii’s circular economy.
Bob and Kelly King founded Pacific Biodiesel on Maui in 1995 where they created the first retail biodiesel pump in America. Their clean, renewable biodiesel is produced by recycling used cooking oil from restaurants statewide. In 2017, the Kings began farming sunflowers and other cover crops on their 115-acre farm in Maui’s central valley. Using regenerative farming practices, their company Maiden Hawaii Naturals produces culinary oils for restaurants and consumers and the used cooking oil is later recycled by Pacific Biodiesel to produce its 100% renewable fuel for Hawaii.
In January 2024, Pacific Biodiesel announced its expansion of operations to Kauai as part of a multi-year agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineer Research and Development Center’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory for a project that will demonstrate renewable biofuel produced in Hawaii from multiple locally grown oilseed cover crops. Supporting the U.S. Army Climate Strategy, this project will produce a prototype solution for sustainable biofuel as well as the agricultural model to produce the renewable fuel in Hawaii.
Building upon Pacific Biodiesel’s previous research in its 2011 Hawaii Military Biofuel Crop Project, this project will demonstrate farming at a larger scale of 1,000+ acres and will include sunflowers and other crops in rotation with food crops. The production 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.
“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 President Bob King.
This project is based on Kauai, where Pacific Biodiesel is 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.
Learn more about Pacific Biodiesel’s community-based sustainable agriculture and renewable energy model below:
Pacific Biodiesel Awarded Federal Funding to Develop Model for Hawaii Agriculture-Based Biofuel
Kauai, Hawaii (January 16, 2024) Pacific Biodiesel Technologies, LLC today 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. To read the full press release, click here.
Pacific Biodiesel Announces Maui’s First State-Licensed Industrial Hemp Farm
Maui, Hawaii (April 22, 2019) In celebration of Earth Day, and in a continued effort to support sustainable, community-based agriculture and renewable energy, Pacific Biodiesel Technologies (PBT) and its founders Bob and Kelly King announce today the developement of Maui’s first state-licensed industrial hemp farm, operating under the Kings’ personal entity, Imua Energy, LLC. To download the full press release, click here.
Pacific Biodiesel Celebrates First Blooms; Readies for First Harvest at its Maui Sunflower Biofuel Crop
Maui, HI (April 28, 2017) – After hosting an Earth Day community event last weekend to celebrate the first blooms in its Maui sunflower biofuel crop, Pacific Biodiesel Technologies yesterday delivered its combine harvester to the crop site to prepare for the first harvest, expected to begin in the next month when the sunflowers have fully matured. To download the full press release, click here.
Pacific Biodiesel Begins Farming the State’s Largest Biofuel Crop Project
Maui, HI (February 24, 2017) – Pacific Biodiesel Technologies this morning hosted a Hawaiian blessing to mark the beginning of the company’s scaled-up farming demonstration to grow biofuel crops including sunflowers in Maui’s central valley. The initial crop project on 115 acres will expand diversified agriculture by growing combine-harvested oil crops on land previously used for sugar cane production. This is the largest biofuel crop project in the state of Hawaii and the only biofuel farming operation in the state running on 100% renewable fuel, showcasing the company’s sustainable, community-based model of agriculture and renewable energy. To download the full press release, click here.
“Isn’t it too expensive to grow crops for biofuel?”
Probably, if that’s the only thing you are planning to use the crop for. We think the best models (including the one we are pursuing) are those that are “zero-waste” and use all by-products from the crop. For example, if you can make oil, meal (for animal feed) and silage (for biomass fuel or feed) from one crop and sell all of those then you have a better economic model. Also, our model takes some of that oil to make higher value products (cosmetic or food oil) and uses that to offset the cost of growing the rest of the oil for biofuel.
“Do you use lots of water and fertilizer/pesticides to grow biofuel crops?”
Some crops do, but we have carefully chosen our crops to be mindful of the inputs. We also are actively researching and using alternatives to chemical fertilizer/pesticides, including compost from Maui EKO to replace fertilizer and crop rotation to reduce pests. So far we have used no herbicides or pesticides, and we don’t plan to ever use them. Our farming operation uses efficient biodiesel-powered pivot irrigation systems that provides accurate and variable water irrigation.
“What is regenerative farming and how are you using these practices?”
Our Maui farm is a “carbon negative” farming operation that demonstrates these regenerative farming practices:
- all farm equipment runs on locally made 100% biodiesel
- the farm utilizes only natural farming practices; no GMO crops; no pesticides/herbicides
- Rotation of different crop types helps improve soil health (cover crops sequester CO2 from the atmosphere and store carbon in soil)
“Aren’t biofuel crops GMO?”
Some can be, like soybean and corn. However, we have only used non-GMO crops on our demonstration farms. There are no GMO sunflowers on the market, so all of the varieties of sunflower that we use are traditional hybrids (meaning they were developed by selective breeding, not genetic mutation).
“I heard you are importing feedstock for your current production. Isn’t that the same as importing fuel?”
We collect and receive almost all of the used cooking oil (UCO) produced in Hawaii and recycle that to produce our biodiesel, – but we do have to import some waste oil material in order to get our Hawaii Island refinery to full production. We estimate that there are 2 million gallons/year of UCO produced in Hawaii and our plant is a 5.5 million gal/year capacity.
We have always viewed importing used cooking oil as a short-term solution to getting our Hawaii Island refinery to full operations. We are moving forward as fast as we can with developing/growing local crops that we can grow to replace the imported waste feedstock. Our long-term goal is to fill our Hawaii Island plant with 100% local feedstock.
In the short-term, importing waste cooking oil is still better than importing petroleum because our fuel is much better for the environment and we create local jobs since our fuel is processed in Hawaii.
“Do you have plans to expand your biodiesel plant?”
We would like to continue to expand our biodiesel production throughout the state in order to reduce the imports of petroleum products. However, this is dependent on having enough feedstock. We are actively working on developing local biofuel crops so that we can expand our local feedstock production and thus eventually we could expand biodiesel production. We do not think it makes sense to increase our biodiesel production before we have greater access to local feedstock.
Also, when we do get to the point where we can expand biodiesel production, we would prefer to build another facility rather than expand our current one. This is because we favor distributed production over consolidated production. By expanding our production facilities across the state, we can reduce shipping of feedstock and fuel interisland – which also supports energy security in our vulnerable island state and creates local jobs throughout the state.
“Most of the fuel is used on Oahu, so why is your biodiesel plant on Hawaii Island?”
Our biodiesel plant was designed to have greater capacity than the amount of used cooking oil available in Hawaii so that we could stimulate local biofuel crop production. Hawaii Island has a strong agriculture industry and lots of available land, so we think it has great potential to grow enough oil to eventually provide enough feedstock for our Hawaii Island plant.
“Why did you choose to grow sunflower?”
We like sunflower because it provides a high quality oil (which can be used for cosmetics or food, plus biofuel) and a good meal product (for livestock feed). It has a high oil content, and the blooms are beautiful! Our sunflower farm has become a popular agritourism attraction.
“How is your biodiesel used throughout the state?”
Our local biodiesel is an important part of Hawaii’s renewable energy mix. Currently the bulk of our fuel is used for utility power generation – our firm renewable fuel is a good “backup” to other renewables on the grid because it can fuel a peaking power plant to stabilize the grid when solar or wind drop off. Biodiesel is also valuable for heavy-duty transportation because it is a dense form of liquid energy (great for hauling around in trucks or ocean tugs).
We also are glad to have diverse markets for the fuel, because when crude oil prices are low we find it harder to sell into the transportation market. It is a benefit that biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine or turbine, so our fuel works for lots of different applications. Besides power generation, biodiesel is currently used in cars, trucks (passenger and heavy-duty), tractors, boats, shuttle buses and even ambulances. It is available in retail stations on Maui, Oahu and Hawaii Island. Click here to learn where you can buy biodiesel statewide.