Big Island Carbon files for bankruptcy


A Kawaihae factory that took a federal loan several years ago filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy earlier this month, after failing to start production ever.

Big Island Carbon formed several years ago, and revealed in 2009 plans to the community for a plant to turn macadamia nut shells into granular activated carbon, a product used in filtration devices, as well as in ultracapacitors, devices that provide power boosts in things like windmills and hybrid cars. The company began with $20 million in capital, and costs ballooned to $50 million, said Adam Carte, partner with Denham Capital.

The company filed for bankruptcy Nov. 5 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

Former CEO Rick Vidgen referred questions to Carte, who is based in Boston. Vidgen said he had been laid off, along with 24 other Big Island Carbon employees, in early October, but also said he was working on his own time to secure new funding for the project.

In 2010, Big Island Carbon received a $5 million loan through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. At the time, Vidgen said he expected the plant to open in November or December of that year.

Just last year, Vidgen was touting Big Island Carbon and its process to international dignitaries during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperative conferences that took place in Honolulu. At the time, Vidgen told West Hawaii Today the carbon the company was making from macadamia nut shells could have been used to clean up the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant meltdown.

Big Island Carbon was one of two Hawaii Island businesses selected to participate in the Hawaii Business Innovation Showcase.

The plant is located on a 4-acre parcel just south of the Hamakua Mac Nut Co. on Maluokalani Street. The land was subleased from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.