Tesoro Hawaii announced on Jan. 8 that the company will be converting its Oahu crude oil refinery to a terminal, effectively ceasing the Kapolei facility’s refinery operations. The announcement comes after Tesoro Hawaii stated that no potential buyer had been found for the 94,000-barrel-per-day refinery, which was put on the market early last year.
Company officials said that the Kapolei terminal will remain an import, storage and distribution facility. The shutdown of the Tesoro refinery will leave just one crude oil refinery left in Hawaii, Chevron’s 54,000-barrel-per-day facility based in the Campbell Industrial Park, also on Oahu.
This would, at first glance, seem to be bad news. Indeed, U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono said in a Jan. 8 Hawaii News Now story that the closure and its 200 or so job losses was “terrible” news for the state.
But it might not be all bad. In fact, the closure might be a sign that we’re actually moving towards energy independence. Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie thinks so.
“The 21st Century has arrived when it comes to energy and the importation of oil,” said Abercrombie in a statement shortly after Tesoro’s announcement. “The changing petroleum landscape underscores the urgency for the State of Hawaii to move rapidly on meeting our Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative objectives. Essential to our economic recovery is taking control of our state’s energy future. We currently send billions of dollars a year outside of our islands to meet our energy needs.”
Maui-based Pacific Biodiesel, which makes petroleum-free diesel fuel out of used restaurant cooking oil, certainly sees things that way. Beth Mathias, the company’s director of sales and marketing, said that while they were curious to see what will happen now, the company’s focus on a “community-based energy production model” remains the same.
“We’re moving as we always have with the opening of the Hilo biodiesel plant,” she said. “We’re increasing production. The need is already there. We hope more people are seeing how well biodiesel will work in their vehicles.”