A&B Planning Pongamia Project on Former HC&S Land
by Lee Imada (Maui News) Alexander & Baldwin is close to formalizing a partnership with a seed oil producing company on a 250-acre demonstration project to produce biofuels from the pongamia tree on old sugar fields with planting possibly to begin in mid-May.
Darren Pai, A&B spokesman, said Friday that pongamia, a long-living tree from India and Australia, also offers the possibility of producing food and fuel — with cattle grazing or other crops grown between the tree rows.
“We believe pongamia can help diversify agriculture production on Maui while also potentially addressing our community’s need for renewable fuels and bioenergy,” Pai said. “Transitioning the former plantation lands into diversified agriculture provides an opportunity to look at growing more energy crops locally.”
A&B has been in discussions for a few years with Oakland, Calif., based TerViva, which has been working on smaller pongamia projects in Hawaii, he said. “The transition of the former sugar plantation resulted in an opportunity to work together on a larger project,” Pai said.
The seed oil from the tree may be used to produce biofuels. The residual pongamia seed cake, which is high in nitrogen and protein, can be used in fertilizer, animal feed supplements or as a feedstock for other bioenergy, including biogas production, Pai said.
A&B will be “partnering with TerViva on an initial 250-acre demonstration project with the possibility of expanding up to 2,000 acres or more if all goes well,” said Pai.
It was not clear if A&B would process the plant on Maui. Pai said that A&B and TerViva “will evaluate together the best uses and optimal logistics for the crop, which could involve processing the crop on Maui.”
Pai said the processing of pongamia is similar to that of soybeans “and at scale could create additional jobs beyond field-related activities.” READ MORE