Anaergia finalizing renewable fuel buyers

Facility at Central Maui landfill expected to come on line in 2018

February 9, 2015

By EILEEN CHAO - Staff Writer (echao@mauinews.com), The Maui News



Anaergia Services, the California-based firm contracted to build a state-of-the-art waste conversion facility at the Central Maui landfill, is eyeing Maui Electric Co., the County of Maui, a number of hotels and other consumers as potential buyers of renewable fuels to be produced at the facility once it comes on line in 2018, officials said Sunday.

The company had expected the facility to be up and running by 2017, but officials said that the anticipated completion date has been moved back slightly as negotiations with potential off-takers continue.

Anaergia expects to sign power and fuel supply contracts this year, said Karl Bossert, the company's Pacific region director of business development.

"Discussions with possible buyers of fuels, power and other products produced by the Maui Resource Recovery Facility are ongoing," Bossert said in a statement.

Mayor Alan Arakawa signed a 20-year contract with Anaergia in January 2014 to build and operate the Puunene facility. Anaergia officials have reported that their facility will be able to double the amount of waste currently diverted from the Central Maui Landfill, diverting up to 85 percent. Anaergia, which operates more than 1,600 renewable energy projects worldwide, agreed to finance, design, construct, own and operate its facility at the landfill, though the county will need to pay a tip fee through the duration of the contract.

Still, county officials expect to save "millions of dollars" over the next two decades while diverting more waste from the landfill and producing renewable fuels.

The facility will turn waste into three end products: recyclables to be shipped and processed off-island, as some of the waste currently is; liquefied natural gas from the organic waste; and refuse-derived fuel blocks from the inorganic waste.

Anaergia has also been contracted to build an anaerobic digestion facility in West Maui to process sorghum into biofuel, though officials said that the two projects may be combined, since the Central Maui facility will already have an anaerobic digester.

"Although it (the West Maui project) could be a stand-alone project . . . it's quite likely we'll make the gas from the crop in Central Maui and sell that to off-takers, whether to the utility or other folks. We would do the digestion in the Central Maui location," Bossert said.

He added that the crops would still be grown in West Maui on about 1,800 acres of fallow agricultural land near the Lahaina Wastewater Treatment Plant.

"The purpose of that project is to help the county consume their excess R-1 water that's going to be generated when they try to reduce or eliminate injection well use," Bossert said.

The county has been in hot water recently over its use of injection wells at the Lahaina Wastewater Treatment Plant, which have been the subject of a lawsuit filed by four community groups who say that the water from the injection wells is seeping into coastal waters and damaging the reefs and ocean environment.

A federal judge has ruled that the injection wells are in violation of the Clean Water Act, leaving the county open to tens of thousands of dollars a day in civil penalties, a lawyer for the group has said.

Anaergia's $50 million West Maui Energy Park would be able to utilize about 2.5 million gallons of recycled water per day, Bossert said.

"Once operational, the use of injection wells in West Maui will be reduced or eliminated," he said.

Sorghum, a grass that is native to Hawaii, is able to withstand the high salinity and chlorides present in the Lahaina Wastewater Treatment Plant's reclaimed water, according to a project description.

To expedite the facility's development, the state Public Utilities Commission granted MECO's request to negotiate directly with Anaergia in March. MECO officials said in April that they expected to have the power purchase contract filed by September, but negotiations are ongoing.

"Ultimately, options that we consider have to be cost-effective for our customers," MECO spokeswoman Kau'i Awai-Dickson said by phone Sunday. Acknowledging that negotiations have been going on for nearly a year, she said, "We're close to a decision."

Once the fuel or power supply contracts are signed, Anaergia will engage in "detailed engineering efforts and pursue permits." Bossert said that the company has decided to complete a full environmental impact statement for the Maui Resource Recovery Facility, though one is not required for the project.

"I suggested a full EIS would be a very helpful thing to ensure the community felt that we had rigorously looked at this," Bossert said, adding that the EIS may also answer many questions that are likely to come up during the permitting phase.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at echao@mauinews.com.

© Copyright 2015 The Maui News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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