Giant fuel storage tanks under construction as military prepares to defuel Red Hill

Island Energy has a $170,240,00 dollar contract over five years that was awarded by the Defense Logistics Agency.
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 5:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Sources tell Hawaii News Now it’s no coincidence. A military-funded project is building giant new storage tanks in Kapolei just as it prepares to drain the Red Hill fuel tanks.

Island Energy has a $170,240,000 contract over five years that was awarded by the Defense Logistics Agency.

New above-ground tanks are set to be completed in August, while gravity defueling of the Navy’s Red Hill tanks is scheduled to begin two months later.

Hawaii News Now obtained photos of the construction at Island Energy in Kapolei.

The company wouldn’t say that the fuel is specifically coming from the Navy’s underground Red Hill fuel facility, but that it’s building five new tanks 64 feet tall and 125 feet in diameter. It’s also re-purposing six existing tanks.

“Island Energy is on schedule to complete the 1.5 million barrel fuel storage facility awarded by the Defense Logistics Agency in August. We appreciate the many hands that have worked diligently this far on an accelerated schedule to deliver this project,” said Albert Chee, Vice President, Retail Marketing & Community Relations.

Chee told Hawaii News Now the company hasn’t been made aware of where the fuel would come from.

“Our job is to build and operate storage,” he said.

The Red Hill Task Force says several locations are being considered, including “Old Campbell Industrial Park near Kapolei.”

The company says a project this size would typically take two years, so the project is moving rapidly.

Hawaii News Now estimated with 104 million gallons of fuel at Red Hill, Island Energy’s tanks could potentially hold two-thirds of the fuel.

“I heard you need 10 tankers to accomplish getting the 104 million gallons out of there,” said Ernie Lau, Board of Water Supply manager and chief engineer.

The military is preparing to move the fuel to avoid another catastrophic fuel leak that contaminated the Navy’s water system in 2021.

At a Fuel Tank Advisory Committee meeting, the commander in charge of Joint Task Force - Red Hill discussed preparing for another possible leak just in case.

“We’ve got to move that fuel out of there as quickly as possible to ensure that we have the least amount of fuel that would then penetrate through the concrete into the lava rock and potentially into the aquifer,” said Vice Admiral John Wade.

The military says other locations that the fuel could go to are scattered around the Pacific, including California, Japan, the Philippines, and Australia.