San Francisco Lands Grants to Use Trap Grease for Biodiesel Production

By Tina Caparella

The city of San Francisco, CA, is already in the grease collection business, where city workers collect used cooking oil from participating restaurants and city entities for free and transport it to area biodiesel producers who make the alternative fuel that is then used in the city’s fleets. Now the City by the Bay is going one step further and entering into a public-private collaboration to use trap grease to produce “multiple types of alternative energy,” including biodiesel, low-grade boiler fuel, and converted methane.

The pilot project received $1.2 million in state and federal grants and will be constructed at the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant next to the San Francisco Zoo. The technology used to produce the biofuels is one developed and demonstrated over the past four years by Philadelphia Fry-o-Diesel, now known as BlackGold Biofuels, based in Philadelphia, PA. San Francisco has licensed the technology and purchased skid-mounted processing units to install on-site, which will be the first commercial-scale production facility using this technology. The plant is expected to come online by November 2009 and will be operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), who will produce biodiesel from the trap grease at the rate of 100,000 gallons per year.

The city does not plan to collect this grease itself, but instead is “opening its doors” to private grease haulers who are interested in pumping the traps in the city and transporting it to the new processing facility.

According to Kerri Ving, SFPUC, the city prefers the grease to stay within the city limits, and the new plant will initially accept up to 10,000 gallons per day of trap grease for the first couple of years, after which the city will evaluate the demonstration plant’s cost effectiveness. San Francisco hopes to use the project as a model for other cities across the country.

Unlike recycled cooking oil, which is cleaner and highly sought after as a feedstock in biodiesel production, trap grease is a mix of used oils and food scraps that flow down the sink drain during dishwashing, food preparation, and daily cleaning. In commercial kitchens, the grease is captured in traps before going into sewer drains to prevent grease blockages and costly city clean-ups. The SFPUC estimates that grease blockages in city sewers account for 50 percent of all sewer emergencies and annually costs San Francisco $3.5 million in cleanings. Trap grease is mostly considered a waste product that is pumped out and disposed of at wastewater treatment plants or landfills.

Australia’s Biodiesel Industry Holds Potential

An analysis from Frost and Sullivan states that rising feedstock prices, lack of support from major oil companies, and an unfavorable tax regime over the past two years have caused biodiesel production in Australia to be uneconomical. However, increasing concern over global warming and the political will to strengthen efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions remain strong factors fueling optimism in the Australian biofuels markets.

The Strategic Analysis of the Australian Biodiesel Industry finds that the total biodiesel production in Australia was 60,000 tons in 2008, a fraction of the available capacity of 485,000 tons. If state or federal governments enact measures such as biofuel mandates to stimulate the market, production is forecast to grow to 230,000 tons by 2014.

The analysis goes on to state that currently producing biodiesel from tallow or waste cooking oil in Australia is economical, but that more direct government intervention in the form of mandates or tax breaks is crucial for the market to harness its full potential.

“It is imperative for the Australian government to provide active support to promote the growth of the biodiesel industry, taking a cue from countries including the European Union, New Zealand, and several Asia Pacific countries where government endorse-ment has enabled the sector to develop,” said Frost and Sullivan Managing Director ANZ Mark Dougan. “Without further government support, the domestic biodiesel industry is likely to decline and may even disappear.”

Atlanta Launches Zero Waste Zone

In an effort to combat statistics that show 82 percent of materials disposed of in landfills are recoverable products, Atlanta Recycles has partnered with the Green Foodservice Alliance, and is working in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 and the Pollution Prevention Assistance Division of the Department of Natural Resources, to launch the southeast’s first, and one of the nation’s first, Zero Waste Zones.

Zero Waste Zones are designed to reduce the environmental impact of waste in homes, businesses, and the community. Phase one will focus on downtown Atlanta’s convention district and participating foodservice operations. More than 10 participants, including the Georgia World Congress Center, the Hyatt Regency, and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, have already pledged to recycle and reuse spent cooking oil for the local production of biofuels and compost or donate food residuals.

Phase two will expand the program to other locations in the convention district, while phase three will expand the zone outside of the downtown conven-tion area. A fourth phase will spread the zones to other parts of Georgia, the southeast, and nationally. No time frame was provided on these phases.

Canadian Renderer Partners with Foodservice Provider

Compass Group Canada has formed a partnership with Rothsay, one of Canada’s largest renderers, as the preferred supplier for collecting waste cooking oil and grease from Compass-run foodservice facilities from Manitoba to Newfoundland. Rothsay will use the waste grease collected for the production of biodiesel in its Montreal plant.

“We were looking for a company like Rothsay to partner with,” said Laurie Brager, director of Sustainability for Compass Group Canada. “We feel this is a win-win; not only are we initiating an important environmental initiative, we are also using the opportunity to support one of our national charities, Kids Help Phone.” The company will be donating a portion of the proceeds from the contractual agreement to the organization, which is a toll-free, national, bilingual phone and web counseling, referral, and information service for children and youth.

Compass Group is the leading contract food and support services company in Canada, and is headquartered in Mississauga, ON.

Compound Lowers FFA Levels

Coorga International Trading, Ltd., is marketing a compound that reduces or removes free fatty acids (FFA) from waste cooking oils and animal fats.

Garfield Coore, president, said the granular compound, called Quik ‘n’ Free, was introduced to the U.S. biodiesel industry in late 2008 and is currently being used successfully by several biodiesel producers to reduce or remove FFA levels in high-FFA feedstocks in the pretreatment phase of processing. The compound is used on a one-to-one ratio, can take an 18 percent FFA and reduce it to a fraction of a percent, and is 200 microns in size, making it easy to filter.

Disneyland Switches Biodiesel Feedstock

In April 2007, Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA, began running its railroad’s five trains on soy-based biodiesel. In late January 2009, the Magic Kingdom switched to biodiesel made from recycled cooking oil that is collected from throughout the resort.

“We have been recycling our used kitchen grease for years, but this innovation takes recycling to another level,” said Frank Dela Vara, Disneyland’s director of environmental affairs and conservation. “Now the oil used to cook French fries and other foods is processed to power our Disneyland Railroad and Mark Twain Riverboat. This move allows the resort to save approximately 200,000 gallons of petroleum diesel per year.”

Imperial Western Products in Coachella, CA, is collecting the resort’s waste vegetable oil, processing it into biodiesel, and returning the alternative fuel to Disneyland for its use.

International Renewable Energy Agency Formed

The founding meeting of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) took place in Bonn, Germany, in late January and was attended by over 100 countries. Seventy-five nations, including the United States, signed a compact to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy.

IRENA was formed on a proposal presented in 1990 by German renewable energy leader Hermann Scheer, who commented at the meeting that the world’s nations now have “a mechanism for working together on the adoption of renewable energies.”

NBB Launches YouTube Channel

The Internet’s popular online video sharing Web site, YouTube, now includes a comprehensive source of biodiesel videos and news on the new National Biodiesel Board (NBB) YouTube Channel at

According to NBB, 70 million people worldwide visit YouTube each month. The channel includes videos from February’s National Biodiesel Conference and Expo that highlight San Francisco’s use of biodiesel and feature industry leaders discussing sustainability and other issues. Singer Melissa Etheridge’s address at the conference is also available on the channel and additional videos will be posted as they become available.

Nova Biosource Idles Plants

On February 26, 2009, the board of directors of Nova Biosource Fuels authorized management to idle its Seneca, IL, biodiesel plant and suspend plans for restarting the Clinton, IA, biodiesel facility. Management also began reducing the company’s workforce at these locations and at its engineering and construction subsidiary. Nova did not release a restart date for the idled plants.

According to a report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, these actions were taken due to the unexpected breakdown in negotiations with a working capital financing source, and the inability to obtain financing from other sources in a timely manner. Without additional financing, the refineries do not have sufficient working capital to continue operations. Nova is considering its options for restructuring its operations and in discussions with its project lender regarding these matters. Total financial impact has not yet been estimated.

Sirona Fuels Acquires Blue Sky Biofuels

Sirona Fuels officially entered the biodiesel marketplace by purchasing Blue Sky Biofuels, thus acquiring a 15 million gallon per year biodiesel plant in Oakland, CA, that is currently producing biodiesel from recycled cooking oil.

Sirona has implemented plans for the rapid expansion of its used cooking oil collection business, and by the end of 2009 expects to produce the majority of its biodiesel from jatropha imported from other countries. Sirona Fuels is headquartered in San Francisco, CA.

Renewable Diesel Blends Perform in Cold Weather

The Alberta Renewable Diesel Demonstration (ARDD), Canada’s largest cold-weather study of renewable diesel fuels, has successfully demonstrated the on-road use of low level renewable diesel blends in a range of Canadian climatic conditions.

Designed as a two-phase approach, the ARDD involved laboratory testing followed by real-world use of renewable diesel blends in Alberta trucking fleets. The on-road demonstration, which ran from December 2007 to September 2008, put first- and second-generation renewable diesel fuels on the road in 59 long-haul commercial vehicles across Alberta.

During winter months, two types of two percent renewable diesel blends were used: fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) and hydrogenated-derived renewable diesel (HDRD). During the spring and summer, five percent blends of HDRD and FAME (comprised of 75 percent canola methyl ester and 25 percent tallow methyl ester) were used.

All fuels dispensed in the multi-stakeholder demonstration were blended with a commercial-grade, injection blending system. The blended fuels met Canadian General Standards Board specifications for quality and cold weather performance, including cloud points for the areas of Edmonton, Lloydminster, and Calgary where the fuels were dispensed.

TDA Research Awarded for Waste Grease Project

TDA Research, Inc., of Wheat Ridge, CO, has been awarded $225,000 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a process aimed at producing biodiesel from low-cost waste feedstocks, primarily waste vegetable oil. The award was one of eight in the Phase II contracts through the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

After completion of their EPA Phase I contract, TDA determined that it can produce biodiesel from waste grease at a cost that is competitive with conventional diesel. Under Phase II, the company has identified a new process to solve technical problems involving cost and supply.

This new process will run on low-cost waste and recycled oils and fats. TDA is working with Rocky Mountain Sustainable Enterprises of Boulder, CO, to identify and collect local waste oils and fats for use in the process. Rocky Mountain currently collects nearly one million gallons of recycled waste vegetable oil per year.

The project will be a laboratory-scale version of the process and help target the ideal operating conditions and economics of producing large quantities of biodiesel.

Two Cities to Make Biodiesel from Used Cooking Oil

In early February, the Clarksville (KY) City Council accepted $45,000 in federal grant money to purchase equipment to produce biodiesel with used cooking oil collected from area restaurants. The equipment should be installed by May at the Clarksville Gas and Water (CGW) Department with city employees collecting the used cooking oil. According to news reports, the department has already identified about 1,300 gallons of cooking oil that will be available weekly from 95 restaurants, with more establishments yet to be surveyed. The city hopes to produce about 110 gallons of biodiesel per day.

Once the city processes the used cooking oil into biodiesel, it will then be used in CGW vehicles and Clarksville Transit System buses.

Also in early February, the mayor of Kokomo, IN, unveiled his first sustainability program, K-Fuel, in which the city will collect waste cooking oil from participating restaurants, businesses, and a residential program and convert it into biodiesel. Currently, the city is collecting about 1,500 gallons of used cooking oil per month from 12 businesses and anticipates collecting about 300 gallons from residents. Those amounts are expected to increase over time as businesses partner with the city and as production and collection methods improve. The initiative is called Kokomo’s Renewable Energy Partnership.

Both cities tout the biggest benefit of the programs is keeping fats and oils out of sewers, thus saving money in maintenance and repairs.

Wal-Mart Tests Biodiesel in Trucks

Looking to further reduce fuel consumption and emissions in its trucking fleet, Wal-Mart is running a pilot-scale program testing two new types of heavy-duty commercial hybrid trucks and two alternative-fueled heavy-duty trucks.

Fifteen trucks at the company’s Buckeye, AZ, distribution facility will run on fuel produced from waste trap grease collected from Wal-Mart stores, while the rest of the trucks at the center will run on a 20 percent biodiesel blend made from recycled cooking oil.

At a distribution center in Southern California, four Peterbilt Model 386 trucks and one other vehicle will run on liquid natural gas. Five other of the same model will use diesel-electric hybrid systems.

Wal-Mart has already met it short-term goal of improving fuel efficiency in the fleet by 25 percent from 2005 to 2008. The longer-term goal is to double fuel efficiency by 2015 over the 2005 baseline.

Biofuels Bulletin – April 2009 RENDER | back