Business

New Biodiesel Plant in Keaau to Hold Job Fair

March 19, 2012, 1:20 PM HST
* Updated March 20, 8:52 AM
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A job fair will be held Saturday at the Shipman Business Park in Keaau for positions at the Big Island Biodiesel plant under construction there.

The $13-million plant is being built by Pacific Biodiesel, a Maui-based company that has constructed 12 plants in the US and Japan.

The company will be looking to fill a variety of positions at the new plant including facility manager, administrative assistant, plant operators, shift managers and shipping/receiving agents.

Partners in the job fair being held from 8:30 a.m. to noon include Hawaii Community College, the Hawaii Island Development Board, and Workforce Hawaii.

Tours of the plant under construction will begin at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Information will also be provided on the farming of biodiesel crops. The plant is slated to be fully operational in July.

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Big Island Biodiesel will have an annual capacity of 5.5 million gallons of biofuel made from various types of feedstock, although initially it will focus mainly on used cooking oils and grease-trap oil. The company also plans to use other oils including those from sunflowers, algae and the jatropha plant, as well as fish oil and animal fats.

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According to Pacific Biodiesel Vice President Kelly King, the company has already begun receiving jatropha oil made on the Big Island by Keaau-based Hawaii Pure Plant Oil, which King described as the first commercial biofuel feedstock company in the state.

“We recently got their first crush,” King said, referring to the oil made from jatropha seed.

The Big Island plant uses the latest biofuel technology, King said. Most plants operating now produce at about 80% efficiency, meaning 10 gallons of oil produces eight gallons of biodiesel. The new plant will operate at 90 percent efficiency, she said.

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King said Big Island Biodiesel already has trucks available on the Big Island to collect used cooking oil from restaurants, but may need to bring in more from the mainland until it establishes sufficient sources of local feedstock.

The new plant will sell refined biodiesel to the public at a pump in the Shipman Business Park, and the company is in discussions with service station owners around the island for greater distribution. The plant also will ship biodiesel across the state, King said.

According to the company, biodiesel can be used in any diesel-fueled vehicle. However, since biodiesel is a solvent, if the vehicle was made prior to 1993 the rubber fuel lines will likely have to be replaced. The fuel cannot be used in gasoline-burning engines.

The Big Island Biodiesel plant is being developed with the help of a $5 million federal loan guarantee administered by the US Department of Agriculture.

When he announced the loan in 2010, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said biofuel plants hold great promise.

“Advancing biomass and biofuel production holds the potential to create green jobs, which is one of the many ways the Obama administration and USDA are working to rebuild and revitalize rural America,” Vilsack said.

The Big Island plant will be third in the state built by Pacific Biodiesel. The Maui plant is producing a little less than a half-million gallons of biodiesel annually, while the Oahu plant on Sand Island produces just under 2 million gallons.

 

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