A New Waste Trap Technology for Licensing?

Hawaii researchers are taking on trap grease for use in biodiesel
By Luke Geiver | July 15, 2011

What do commerce, industry and waste trap grease have in common? Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa are trying to find out. Through a research effort related to the Water, Energy and Soil Sustainability effort already happening at Manoa, (an effort funded in part by the U.S. DOE), lead researcher Michael J. Cooney will look at ways to treat waste trap grease into more useful products like biodiesel or soil enhancers. 

The team of collaborators from the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and even the Shidler College of Business will also be joined in their efforts by Pacific Biodiesel Inc. “Without a cost-effective way to treat waste trap grease,” Cooney says, “the local restaurant industry will be threatened, which would negatively impact both the visitor industry and the community.”

As it is now, most fats, oils and grease (FOG) cannot be disposed of in the regular sewer lines, but are instead collected by truck, shipped to a processing center, broken down into smaller fractions and eventually sent to waste-treatment facilities. But, much like tipping fees at landfill sites, the cost to dispose of the FOG is high, and in some cases the waste treatment facilities won’t accept the shipment.

Pacific Biodiesel specializes in production from used cooking oil and has experience in handling waste trap grease. Edward Zwick, general counsel for the company, says any potential licensing of a process or technology that comes from the efforts by everyone involved in the project, could be significant.
Joining the collaboration is also another waste treatment specialist, RealGreen Power, a startup based in Hawaii that has developed an anaerobic bioreactor containing “bionest” structures that help to retain microbial content, which helps to maintain high digestion efficiency, according to the company. RealGreen Power’s process can produce water suitable for irrigation, or potable water suitable for drinking.

Pacific Biodiesel President Bob King says the partnership will be “gratifying,” and adds that he is also looking forward to helping RealGreen Power.

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