BioEnergy negotiating to develop algae-based jet fuels for military


POSTED: Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hawaii BioEnergy LLC, a corporation whose mission is to reduce Hawaii's energy costs, green house gas emissions and dependence on imported fossil fuels, has been tapped to possibly play a pivotal research role in helping two San Diego companies develop algae-based jet fuels for military use.

The Honolulu-based company is in discussions about working with Science Applications International Corp. and General Atomics to provide consulting and on-site research services that support their multimillion government contracts.

A team lead by General Atomics was awarded a $19.9 million government contract on Dec. 9 and a $14.9 million contract was announced for SAIC on Monday. Both companies were selected from 17 bids that were submitted to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, Va.

Hawaii BioEnergy has talked with principals at SAIC and General Atomics on locating parts of their project in Hawaii; however, the scope is still subject to negotiation, said Joel Matsunaga, chief operating officer and executive vice president for Hawaii BioEnergy.

“;We have been having very good discussions and we are very excited at the potential to work with both of those companies,”; Matsunaga said.

SAIC and General Atomics have not formally announced subcontractors for the project. However, according to DARPA, SAIC's work , which is expected to continue through March 2010, could be performed in Vienna, Va.; Minnetonka, Minn.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Houston; Baltimore; Austin, Texas; Irvine, CA; Imperial, Texas; Des Plaines, Ill.; and Grand Forks, N.D.

General Atomics, which is expected to continue contract work through June 2010, is eying work sites in San Diego; Scripps Institutions of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.; Arizona State University in Mesa, Ariz.; Blue Sun Biodiesel in Golden, Colo.; Texas A&M AgriLIFE in College Station, Texas; UOP LLC in Des Plains, Ill; Hawaii BioEnergy; University of North Dakota's Energy and Environmental research Center in Grand Forks, N.D.; and Utah State University in Logan, Utah. SAIC and General Atomics did not return calls to the Star-Bulletin by a press deadline.

Hawaii's attractive research location for any kind of biofuel, not just algae, makes it a competitive contract choice, Matsunaga said.

“;Hawaii offers the ideal environment of very good weather, lots of sunshine and 365 days a year of growing weather,”; Matsunaga said.

If selected, this project would be the first algae application for Hawaii BioEnergy, which has been researching algae and other biofuels since its inception two years ago, Matsunaga said.

Nearly 95 percent of the energy consumed in the Hawaii comes from imported fossil fuels, according to Hawaii BioEnergy's Web site. Hawaii residents pay among the highest prices in the nation for gasoline, residential fuel, and electricity, the company Web site said.