Molokai-Aurora Fuels Project Q&A

Project Proposal:

Aurora Renewable Energy, Inc. – A California-based Corporation (ARE-Inc.) focuses on the conversion of waste-streams to usable products.  For ARE-Inc., such products may include:

  • Ammonia (green-NH3)
  • Fertilizers (Urea or NH2)
  • Bio-fuels and fuel additives
  • Plastics and Polymers
  • Synthesis gas to electricity conversion

The process utilizes off-the-shelf technologies coupled with proprietary systems to gasify waste-streams into their base-elements and then re-form these gasified elements back into other chemical compounds that are both marketable and usable in today’s society.  Our goal is to develop such product at costs on-par with products currently developed from non-renewable resources (primarily fossil fuels).

For Moloka’i, Hawaii ARE-Inc. proposes a multi-fuel combined-cycle energy project designed to create:

  1. Electricity
  2. Either – biodiesel or fertilizer products

Utilizing the island’s waste streams from municipal solid wastes, biomass (plant waste materials or plant-feedstock[1]), and sewage sludge for conversion into electricity and bio-diesel.  This will combine two processes utilizing the same combined fuel-stock (feedstock) for conversion.  


 Q.        Is this a form of incineration?

 A.        No.  The process feeds waste streams over plasma torches ranging from 5,000° to 9,000° centigrade to completely gasify (vaporize) the waste into its base elements.

Q.        What is the proposed project?

 A.        The project proposed to combine an electric generator to provide electricity to the residents of Molokai and a processing plant to provide usable products such as biodiesel or fertilizer from a single fuel source – the waste streams generated on the Island.

Q.        How much does it cost?

A.        A complete financial estimate has not been completed for the project.  Preliminary estimates suggest that the plant would cost between $27 Million – $35 Million to complete.

Q.        Who will own the plant? 

A.        Ownership of the plant has not been determined and is largely dependent upon the plants configuration, total costs, and investor participation.  The plant may be publicly-owned, held through a public-private corporation/cooperative, or privately-owned.  At least some local ownership is recommended to provide operations and maintenance oversight to the facility.

Q.        Where will the money come from?

A.        Financing may come from various sources:  Private Investment/Venture Capital; Local investment/cooperative owned; and public funds (grants, State economic development dollars, etc.).

Q.        What are the goals of the project?

A.        The goals of the project are to provide lower cost electricity and usable/exportable products to the residents of Moloka’i, increase jobs within the island, reduce environmental impacts of other stationary sources of air emissions, and to be profitable through the generation of products on-par with those developed by non-renewable resources.

Q.        How much can it drop electricity costs?

A.        The impact to electricity costs is largely dependent on the total plants costs, the ability to interconnect into Hawaiian Electric’s transmission grid, the negotiated price per kilowatt hour with HECO, and the ability to decouple Molokai’s rates from the combined HECO system.  We anticipate a per kWh reduction in the .43¢/kWh residential rate.  The actual cost savings is TBD and will be accomplished during the initial feasibility study well prior to the plant’s construction.

Q.        Does the plant affect other product costs?

A.        Yes.  ARE-Inc. believes that the production of biodiesel can reduce retail biodiesel costs on the island by as much as $1.00/gallon or the production of Urea (fertilizer) can be reduced on Moloka’i by as much as 50% with additional supplies for export to other portions of Hawaii or beyond.

Q.        Will this create jobs?

A.        Yes.  During design, engineering, shipping, and construction nearly 400 non-permanent jobs will be created on the mainland, in Hawaii, and on Moloka’i.

Once in operation a minimum of 23-30 jobs (depending on the plants configuration) will be created with an annual payroll expected to exceed $1.8 Million annually.  This figure does not take into account jobs created off-site by the plant’s operation.

Q.        What are the environmental impacts?

A.        ARE-Inc. anticipates a net-reduction in environmental impacts to Moloka’i.

Lower the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Footprint – Scientific Certification Systems, an independent consultancy, produced a 2010 Report comparing lifecycle GHG emissions from traditional landfill recovery systems to plasma gasification.  The results showed 1 million metric tons reduction of CO2 emissions over a 20-year period by utilizing gasification[2].  That is 50,000 metric tons per year of CO2 reduction[3].

Beneficial Byproduct versus Flyash and CO2 Production – The bottom output of the gasification unit can be utilized on a secondary basis as aggregate alternative (for use in concrete and roadway construction).  Diesel generation produces flyash emissions and CO2  production harming air-quality.

NPDES Reductions – Current diesel generation on the island increase ocean temperatures at the point of the cooling water diffuser and produces discharges of heavy metals.  The Moloka’i-Aurora Fuels Project proposes to utilize sewage effluent to cool the unit eliminating these impacts.

That said, the combustion of any material – such as in the combustion of the produced syngas to create electricity – creates air emissions.  The syngas generator will create air-emissions on-par with natural gas generators or 1135 lbs./MWh of carbon dioxide, 0.1 lbs./MWh of sulfur dioxide, and 1.7 lbs./MWh of nitrogen oxides (inclusive of waste-gas release).   That is roughly 50% lower than the current diesel generators used on Moloka’i.

The proposed land-use footprint of the plant is 10 acres.  Less than the total acres needed to generate 10MW from solar, wind, or other intermittent sources of electricity generation.

The unit requires 1.5MW of electricity for “cold-start” over a four-hour period utilizing the existing diesel generators.

Q.        How long will it take to build?

A.        Estimates show approximately 2-3 years in design, engineering, and construction phases.

Q.        What phase is the plant in now?

A.        Preliminary stages – A preliminary proposal has been drafted to seek input/reaction from Moloka’i residents to the plants potential benefits, operations, and output.  Nothing has been put in stone or decided.  ARE-Inc. is interested to receive the input of residents.

The next stage would be to conduct a feasibility study to ensure the plant meets the intended goals, requirements, and financial performance.

Q.        What goes on the 10-acres?

A.        A feedstock processing center (to sort wastes), a gasification center (approximately 4 stories high), a steam reformation unit, an electricity generator, electricity interconnection facilities (a substation), a synthesis reaction center, a storage center for secondary products produced, and a logistics center (for trucks).

Q.        Why Aurora Renewable Energy?

A.        ARE-Inc. combines the most advanced in nanomaterial catalyst production with the strengths of project finance, the knowledge of project entitlement, and the ability to access the marketplace.  Utilizing researched and tested off-the-shelf technologies with advanced patents and trade secrets to maximize output.

Q.        Who is ARE-Inc.?

A.        Headquartered in Costa Mesa, California, Aurora Renewable Energy, Inc. specializes in the processing of biomass and waste gases into marketable energy, chemicals, and petrochemical products through synthesis reaction.  We ARE energy’s future!

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This document is the property of Aurora Renewable Energy, Inc. — 2013

[1] Plant crops specifically grown for feedstock purposes – primarily known as Plants Engineered to Replace Oil

[2] 20 year accumulated loading metric ton CO2/1M MWh

[3] Average pre-CDM VER Carbon Credits trading @ $1.50 per metric ton {estimated Carbon Credit of $750,000 per year}

About Michael McKinney

Michael McKinney is the President of MICA-Public Affairs, Inc. a Southern California-based government and public affairs firm. His 20+-years in public policy positions include serving on nearly 200 political campaigns, including as Campaign Manager for the San Bernardino Recall proponents. His specialty areas include energy, environment, land use, transportation and high-technology clients working at the federal, State, and local levels of government. Combining knowledge, experience, tactics, and relationships needed to provide the highest quality services in all aspects of the public affairs industry.
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