January 6, 2016
Fiery Ice Conference
This year's theme, "15 Years of Progress and Future Directions" will highlight accomplishments and changes in hydrate science and engineering since the first workshop in 2001, and identify directions for the future. A primary objective will be to try to develop a well-defined path to expand major international collaborations.
10th International Workshop on Methane Hydrate Research and Development
Hawaii Imin International Conference Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
June 15-17, 2016
The 1st International Workshop on Methane Hydrate R&D was held in March 2001 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The primary objective of that and subsequent workshops was to provide a forum where hydrate researchers and stakeholders could freely exchange information and identify research priorities in an effort to promote collaboration. Subsequent workshops have been held, on average, every 1.5 years in different countries including the U.S., Chile, Canada, U.K., Norway, New Zealand, Japan, and India.
November 12, 2015
Creating renewable gasoline
Creating gasoline and biodiesel from readily available microbial organisms may sound too good to be true, but that is exactly what researchers at the Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa are doing. A new one-pot process is described in a recent publication by Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute Postdoctural Fellow Shimin Kang and Researcher Jian Yu.
“As we refine this process, we will be able to simplify and bring down the cost of converting renewable feedstock to commercially viable transportation fuel,” said researcher Kang.
Biomass to biofuel
There are several different types of feedstock—defined as any renewable, biological material (biomass)—that can be used directly as a fuel or converted to another form of fuel or energy product. Common examples of biomass feedstocks include corn starch, sugarcane juice and purpose-grown grass crops that can be used to derive fuels like ethanol, butanol, biodiesel and other hydrocarbon fuels.
For a fuel to be considered good enough to use in modern high performance automobiles, it needs to have a high antiknock quality (octane number) and low oxygen. Since biomass generally has high oxygen content, it can be a challenge to create a high quality fuel without using multiple complex steps under high pressures and temperatures that can result in high costs of equipment and operation. Researchers are addressing this challenge by testing alternative feedstocks and new processing technology.
Bacterial biomass and a solid catalyst
Like starch and oil accumulated in plants, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) is an energy storage material accumulated from renewable feedstock in many microbial species. Following up on studies showing that PHB could be reformed into oil in liquid phosphoric acid solutions, Kang and Yu tested the process using a solid phosphoric acid as a catalyst. They were able to produce high quality bio-oils, a light gasoline-grade biofuel and a heavy biodiesel-grade biofuel, in a simple one-pot reaction.
“By using a solid catalyst we were able to increase the aromatics content, thereby raising the octane number, while reducing the water content in the resulting commercial grade oils,” said Kang.
With this new, more efficient, method researchers were able to achieve results with reaction temperatures low in comparison to catalytic conversion of conventional biomass. This may help bring down the cost of conversion to biofuel. With future work building on these results, they hope to develop a standard method to create a consistent fuel.
October 11, 2015
Should LNG be an option for Hawaii?
The HNEI's John Cole recently co-authored a piece for Global Island News on whether LNG should be an option for Hawaii.
September 10, 2015
Work in bioplastics leads to $1.4 million contract
Thanks to the efforts of a Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute researcher, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has signed an exclusive global research contract with Bio-On, an Italian intellectual property company, representing a $1.4 million investment.
Dr. Jian Yu’s research focuses on new technologies to produce bioplastics from inexpensive feedstocks such as wood chips, agricultural residues and domestic wastes. The bioplastics can be molded and shaped like oil-based plastics, but are completely degraded into benign products (carbon dioxide and water) in the environment. The research will also make the bioplastics more ductile for broader applications such as films and fibers.
For that purpose, Bio-On has invested $1.6 million over the past seven years into the research, and will invest the additional $1.4 million to continue Dr. Yu’s research. UH has given the company exclusive global license of two patents for production of bioplastics from domestic waste.
“I am glad to have this new research support from Bio-On, which is based on successful cooperation in multiple projects over the past seven years,” said Dr. Yu. “The new project shall promote our research on environmentally friendly bioplastics for a sustainable society.”
July 9, 2015
First net zero energy buildings under construction at UH Mānoa
On June 15, 2015 contractors broke ground for the installation of two 1,500 square foot, net zero energy classrooms. These classrooms will be energy neutral, that is they will generate at least as much energy as they will use.
“This multiyear effort characterizes the effect of usage and building design on energy demand. This is part of a larger research program intended to evaluate the performance and integration of a range of energy technologies that includes energy efficiency, storage and renewable generation systems,” said Richard Rocheleau, Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) director.
The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education will use these classrooms that were funded by HNEI, through a grant from the Office of Naval Research, and designed and installed by Project Frog, a California architecture company. Site work, hardscape, and landscaping are funded by the UH Mānoa Office of Planning and Facilities.
June 30, 2015
New study models path for achieving Hawaiʻi’s renewable energy targets
The Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at UH Mānoa, in partnership with GE Energy Consulting, has completed an analysis identifying various scenarios that would allow the islands of O‘ahu and Maui to surpass Hawai‘i’s 2020 renewable energy targets while lowering electricity costs.
The study evaluated various mixes of renewable energy generation (primarily wind and solar), different island-interconnection strategies, and changes to utility operations to identify cost-effective pathways to meet the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) targets. Funding for the Hawai‘i RPS Study was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of Hawai‘i via the Energy Systems Development Special Fund (aka, “barrel tax”).
Hawaiʻi Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) Study, Final Report, GE Energy Consulting for HNEI, May 2015
June 17, 2015
Wave energy device activated off Kāne‘ohe Bay
Northwest Energy Innovations (NWEI) has deployed its “Azura” wave energy conversion (WEC) device in waters off Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i at the U.S. Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) on the island of O‘ahu. The device will be deployed for 12 months of grid-connected testing as part of a rigorous program to validate the technology.
The Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) is working in conjunction with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Navy to provide an independent verification of device performance and to evaluate the environmental feasibility of wave energy generation. The data will be delivered to the DOE and the U.S. Navy for their use in ongoing efforts to validate wave energy technology and advance the marine renewable energy industry.
Read more about it in the NWEI press release, watch the video at KITV4 and Popular Science; read about in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription required), the Pacific Business News, Hydroworld, and Maritime Executive.
June 5, 2015
Fast-Fill hydrogen fueling station enabling zero emission transportation
The Hawai‘i Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) has commissioned a “Fast-Fill” high-pressure hydrogen fueling station at the Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i (MCBH), Kaneohe Bay. This state-of-the-art station was developed to support a fleet of General Motors Equinox Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) leased by the Office of Naval Research for use by Marine Corps and Navy personnel on O‘ahu. Operational since November 2014, this station was recently certified for unattended operation, allowing drivers to self-fill their cars just as they would do at any gasoline fueling station. Unattended operation will serve as a model for the installation of private stations throughout the state.
September 17, 2014
HNEI to study electrical grids at three Hawaii naval bases
The Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaii (ARL/UH) has received a $2.5 million contract from the Office of Naval Research to address electrical grids at three naval bases in Hawaii. ARL/UH has funded HNEI to help develop a modernization and action plan to meet the Navy's future needs in Hawaii. The work will be conducted by HNEI's Grid System Technologies Advanced Research Team (GridSTART). For more information, contact Leon Roose, GridSTART Principal and Chief Technologist. For details, see the University of Hawaii news release.
July 21, 2014
Navy expands investment at wave energy test site
Work at the Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) located off Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kāneʻohe has received an infusion of $9 million from the U.S. Navy. The funds, from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), are directed to the Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawai‘i (ARL/UH), working with UH Mānoa’s Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), to support industry testing of wave energy conversion devices. The Kāneʻohe site will be the first wave energy test site in the United States connected to an active power grid. (July 21, 2014)
To find out more, please download the press release.