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Hawaii tests algae biofuel

Phycal Inc will supply 100,000-150,000 gallons of algae biofuel to Hawaiian Electric for testing at the Kahe Generating Station, Hawaii, USA.

By Kari Williamson

The algae biofuel will be provided at a fixed price once the contract is reviewed and approved by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission with input from the State Consumer Advocate.

Hawaiian Electric and Phycal expect a subsequent agreement for up to three million gallons per year for three years for a full-scale demonstration project to build upon the anticipated success of the algae based biofuel testing at Kahe.

Pilot algae farm

Phycal plans to design, permit, build and operate a 34-acre pilot farm near Poamoho Camp in Wahiawa, Oahu that will use CO2 from industrial producers on Oahu. The algae will then be harvested and their oils extracted and converted into biofuel. Phycal expects to break ground for the pilot farm in late 2011 or early 2012.

Hawaiian Electric has already conducted successful tests of biofuels processed from plant materials at the Kahe power plant, the largest in the state. The tests included crude biofuel alone and in blends with low sulfur fuel oil. The new test will confirm the ability to use algae-based biofuel as well.

The algae farm project is expected to cost US$65 million over a four-year period and employ about 30 scientists, engineers and workers at the Poamoho location.

Phycal was selected by the US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to develop a pilot algae farm to test the viability of growing and harvesting algae, extracting its oil, and converting the oil into biofuel in 2010. Phycal received a US$3m Phase 1 award from NETL and an additional US$48.5m Phase 2 award towards a pilot farm.

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