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State’s first off-grid biodiesel fueling station opens on Maui

Pacific Biodiesel founders Bob (from left) and Kelly King assist Rev. Kealahou Alika with the blessing of Hawaii’s first off-the-grid mobile biodiesel fueling station at Maalaea Small Boat Harbor Friday morning. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The first of six mobile biodiesel fueling stations in Hawaii opened Friday morning following a blessing at Maalaea Small Boat Harbor.

The first two fill-ups at the off-grid fueling station installed and operated by Pacific Biodiesel went inside a Pacific Whale Foundation boat and a state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife truck.

“This innovative fueling station gives customers 24/7 access to biodiesel, making it more convenient to fuel up with our locally produced, 100-percent renewable fuel,” Bob King, who co-founded Pacific Biodiesel with wife Kelly King, said in a news release Friday. “These self-contained units are easy to install and move. They can be quickly dropped into locations around the state to serve customers, like DLNR, who are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight the effects of the climate crisis.”

DLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case said the mobile fueling station is an example of a public-private partnership that benefits the state and its people.

“We have to do everything possible to get off fossil fuels,” Case said. “This is an important public-private partnership in furtherance of our state’s renewable energy goals and climate change mitigation. It is part of a series of biodiesel fueling stations in small boat harbors for vessels and vehicles. DOBOR is working closely with Pacific Biodiesel on expanding access to local biodiesel which supports energy security and provides critically important environmental benefits.”

Pacific Biodiesel was a 2021 recipient of U.S. Department of Agriculture infrastructure funding for production of the stations that help expand the availability of locally made biodiesel to customers across Hawaii, according to the news release from DLNR. Each fueling station holds 8,000 gallons of distilled biodiesel produced at the company’s refinery on Hawaii island. The stations offer flexibility in providing fuel for on-road, off-road and marine customers. Several tour boat companies at Maalaea Harbor have been fueling with biodiesel for years. The station will now allow the companies to fuel up without needing to pay fuel delivery charges.

Biodiesel is produced using renewable sources, including recycled cooking oils collected from restaurants and food service operations around the state. The Pacific Biodiesel plant at Keaau on Hawaii island produces 5.5 million gallons of the nontoxic, biodegradable fuel a year. Marine customers reportedly claim the exhaust produced by biodiesel smells better than traditional diesel, a Pacific Biodiesel official said during a blessing held at the harbor on Friday.

“This fuel is a good match for us and featuring it at Maalaea is in keeping with our mission to protect the marine environment and its inhabitants, prevent pollution that affects water quality, and promote appreciation of the marine environment,” said Ed Underwood, administrator of DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

Biodiesel directly replaces petroleum diesel fuel and can be used in any diesel engine, including diesel-powered boats, cars, trucks, buses, heavy equipment and power generators, the news release said. To use the biodiesel station at Maalaea Harbor, customers must first download a free app.

To open a commercial account or to complete a tax exemption form to purchase fuel for marine or other off-road use, customers may contact Pacific Biodiesel’s station manager, Christopher Long, at (808) 283-1855.

Friday’s blessing was conducted by Rev. Kealahou Alika.

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