Alternative fuels are essential for Hawaii to reduce its dependence on imported petroleum for both transportation and power generation. HNEI conducts research, testing and evaluation, and performs analysis, supporting the commercial development of alternative fuels. Current focus areas include biofuels and high value products derived from renewable resources and waste streams, hydrogen and solar fuels, and methane hydrates. HNEI is also supporting studies to assess the potential for use of LNG to meet Hawaii energy needs.
Energy from biomass has, historically, been a significant part of Hawaii’s energy mix. With the decline of the sugar industry, there has been considerable effort in the state to identify new, cost effective means to produce biofuels and/or energy from biomass. HNEI’s activities focus primarily on resource assessments and the development of technology for the conversion of renewable feedstocks and waste into fuels and other high-value products.
HNEI is working to develop cost effective processes for the production of hydrogen from several renewable resources. This includes development and testing of hydrogen infrastructure in support of fueling stations and electric utility grids. Solar fuel is another area of research, focused on cost effective materials and photoelectrochemical processes to produce hydrogen gas directly from sunlight and water.
Methane Hydrates 
Since 2002, HNEI has conducted research to understand the formation and decomposition of methane hydrates for use as a fuel; and to explore engineering applications of hydrates such as for gas separation and water desalination. Hydrates comprise a crystalline water lattice stabilized by the presence of certain guest molecules or atoms in the lattice cavities. Natural gas hydrates (mostly methane) are found in deep ocean sediments and arctic permafrost. Estimates of the amount of methane gas contained in hydrate deposits indicate an energy content exceeding that of all known coal, oil, and conventional natural gas reserves.