Springboard Biodiesel's BioPro endorsed by Green Restaurant Ass'n

By Ron Kotrba | December 11, 2012

Chico, Calif.-based Springboard Biodiesel announced that its trademarked BioPro EX has met the Green Restaurant Association’s rigorous endorsement standards for alternative fuel refueling stations. By using the BioPro EX, restaurants can make biodiesel that meets ASTM specifications for 95 cents a gallon, according to Springboard Biodiesel. In addition to saving costs on fuel, restaurants that use the GRA-endorsed BioPro EX can stay ahead of legislation and significantly reduce CO2 and particulate emissions.

Restaurants will earn 2.5 GreenPoints towards becoming a Certified Green Restaurant based on the GRA’s certification standards in the environmental category of eliminating waste. Furthermore, the GRA requires Certified Green Restaurants in the following locations to convert their grease to biodiesel or energy: Asheville, N.C., Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, southern and central Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Idaho, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Spokane, Wash., and Wyoming.

“Innovative technology such as the BioPro EX has made it possible for restaurants to recycle their grease in a simple, cost-efficient manner,” said Michael Oshman, founder and CEO of the Green Restaurant Association. “While the average restaurant washes about 15 pounds of grease down the drain for every 150 meals served, restaurants that use the BioPro EX device help both the environment and their budgets.”

“We’re delighted by this endorsement,” said Springboard Biodiesel’s CEO Mark Roberts. “Making a clean-burning fuel in an automated appliance and saving money at the same time is a truly great combination of benefits. The BioPro enables restaurant owners to both save money and differentiate themselves in the eyes of their customers, who are increasingly valuing green initiatives.”

Today, when seemingly everything is made in China, another aspect of the BioPro EX equipment that Springboard Biodiesel is proud of is it’s entirely made in the U.S.

Springboard Biodiesel is a biodiesel equipment manufacturer located in Chico, Calif., which manufactures processors, dry-wash systems, glycerin demethylators, methanol purifiers, and other ancillary equipment used in the small-scale production of biodiesel from waste streams. Springboard is best known for its BioPro line of biodiesel processors, automated machines that convert used cooking oils (any vegetable or animal oil) into premium-grade biodiesel for 95 cents per gallon (if an operator can collect cooking oil for free).

The GRA is the only official certifier of Green Restaurants in the U.S. The national nonprofit organization was founded in 1990 to shift the restaurant industry toward ecological sustainability. For 20 years, the GRA has pioneered the Green Restaurant movement and currently works with more than 850 restaurants throughout the U.S. and Canada. With a transparent and turnkey certification system, the GRA has made it easy for thousands of restaurants to profit and become more environmentally sustainable.  As the industry standard for Greening restaurants, the GRA has the world’s largest database of environmental solutions for the foodservice industry. In 2009, the New York State Restaurant Association announced its official endorsement of the GRA, joining EPA Energy Star for Small Business, and several other national environmental groups. The GRA has been featured on CNN, NBC Nightly News, NPR, and in The New York Times and The Washington Post.


8 Responses

  1. Jason Burroughs



    While I support the recycling of oil into biodiesel (my business is the grease-to-biodiesel local in Austin, TX), I have some issues with this article: 1. What does the 1.6 ounces of "grease washed down the drain" per meal have to do with anything? Grease washed down the drain is trap grease; the BioPro uses cooking oil, which is stored in a different place. Trap grease is mixed with food and handwashing waste (soap, etc), and is sucked out by a grease trap company. The BioPro's use of cooking oil in no way displaces or prevents anything that goes down a drain. 2. The claim of 95 cents per gallon is if you get the oil for free - but what about the cost of the unit itself? The calculations I have seen show the ROI at about 7000 gallons. The average restaurant produces maybe 50 gal/mo, so that would take 10-15 years to pay for itself. Perhaps a very high volume restaurant might pay for itself in 2-3 years, not including all the labor costs, storing chemicals, etc. I'm not sure that a restaurant can store those chemicals, so there would be the transport of the oil to another location, which would need to be built out to be able to legally deal with methanol and all the regulations that may apply. 3. What about the waste stream? Those in the restaurant business are in the business of making food, not disposing of glycerin. At a large scale, glycerin is certainly a commodity. However, at the relative small scale that this would typically be run at, glycerin becomes more of a problem. 4. With today's increasingly complex engines, using fuel that has not been tested to meet ASTM specifications can be quite a gamble. At $1000 for the suite of tests, you'd need to test a very large tank to make it worthwhile. Instead, small scale producers use tests that aim for "good enough". I hope that restaurants would consider seeking out local grease-to-biodiesel companies, partnering with them, and consolidating all that grease so that it can be handled with the proper permits and licenses that such chemicals should. I personally know people who can make biodiesel safely and successfully. However, for every one of them, there are dozens who have tried and failed, leaving in their wake stories of "that biofuel messed up my engine", etc. There is an industry out there that these restaurants can support, which can make the biggest dent in our overall use of fossil fuels. Please consider making your own fuel as a last resort - if you happen to have the right combination of people, land, disposal method, and skills to see it through to the end. Jason Burroughs DieselGreen Fuels, Austin TX

  2. Mark Roberts



    Jason, Thank you for reading the article and taking the time to share your vocational perspective. Allow me to share with you some information that might help you better evaluate the BioPro™ solution and the increasing value of the small-scale biodiesel production path, especially as it pertains to the restaurant industry - the largest producer of used cooking oil. You have quite a few points that you make, but it seems to me it primarily boils down to this: "Don't let restaurants do this for themselves because there is already an industry that exists to pick up the used cooking oil, transport it to a production facility, make ASTM-grade biodiesel and sell that for a profit." While I am a huge supporter of the biodiesel industry, I think that argument is similar to telling people not to grow their own food because there is a huge agricultural industry designed to grow and sell to them. You make a number of assertions regarding the financial model of a BioPro™. Let me correct some of your math. While I am sure quite a few restaurants produce very little used cooking oil, The National Restaurant Association (the other NRA) lists over 500,000 US restaurants, and many of these restaurants produce far more than 10 gallons of grease per week. For example's sake, let's assume a restaurant creates 25 gallons of used cooking oil per week and can turn that into biodiesel for $0.95/gallon, that's 1,200 gallons of biodiesel per year at a net cost, including state and federal road taxes, of $1.37/gallon (in California). If the BioPro™ costs about $10,000, then the restaurant owner could pay for his investment in about 3 years (math = 1,200 gallons x $2.63 profit x 3 years - obviously, those with more UCO see even more compelling economic returns). The restaurant owner would also be directly impacting his environment by reducing the carbon footprint of his operations, AND he would be adding a revenue stream to his restaurant operation. The NRA reports that the average restaurant has a profit margin of 4-8%; so, given that every restaurant in the US (500,000+) produces used cooking oil that it needs to manage, this small-scale production model can become a valuable option. Currently, restaurants are not economically optimizing a captive resource - different restaurants in different parts of the country receive widely different payment for their UCO, and given the profit constraints of the industry, I believe this is a potentially valuable addition to any restaurant with a reasonable amount of annual UCO production. After all, the price of diesel fuel is well known, and so the value of biodiesel if far more transparent. While your concerns regarding the small-scale production model are likely genuine, the fact is that a) The BioPro™ is able to produce ASTM-grade biodiesel, and we have lots of customers that have had their fuel successfully tested, b) While there are production logisitics - chemicals and by-products - these are manageable (750 users are doing so currently) and c) The argument that it's easier to just keep doing what they've been doing is, frankly, specious - apathy is the number one contributor to climate warming and this country's woeful lack of a coherent, sustainable energy policy I know there is room for grease collectors and BioPro™ users, but in inefficient markets, which I would argue defines the current used cooking oil market, disintermediation happens. I think that the compelling economic and environmental impact of BioPro™-ownership will increasingly be valued by forward thinking restaurants. The Green Restaurant Association should be applauded for supporting its members efforts to operate in a greener, more efficient and more profitable manner. Mark Roberts CEO Springboard Biodiesel, Chico, CA.

  3. Dara Lor



    I understand where both sides are coming from. I myself started with the same model of trying to educate and teach people how to make fuel for themselves. Unfortunately making biodiesel with CONSISTENT quality is much harder than growing your own food, at least to tell weather or not you did the procedure correctly. Crops just end up dying and not growing anymore where a yellow liquid can be put into the engine whether or not it's spec or not. In our world of reality television unfortunately bad news/drama seem to spread much faster and further than good news. Historically there have been large Biodiesel players that have put out bad product in the past. Those days seem to be pretty much over but none the less there is a learning curve in my opinion. I have dedicated the past 6 years of my like to the Sustainable Biodiesel industry and I still hear stories of how someone knew someone that had a neighbor that tried it and it didn't work. Ideologically I really hope that something like the Bio Pro would work for the masses although I feel it is a hobby much like home brew beer or wine making where science is accompanied with passion and a bit of art. What ever happened to the Veggie-Watt? Similar concept where the used cooking oil generator could convert the oil into energy on site. I also just see a problem in the regulation factors of this model. Believe me I wish the regs were a bit more specific to the non-hazardous, non- toxic nature of Biodiesel but they are pretty much just assimilated Biodiesel in with general fuel regulations which were created around hazardous petroleum products. I am not against the concept of Bio Pro on every corner! I am absolutely for it but much like many other sustainable technologies the problem lies with how difficult/expensive regulations make these technologies to operate in plain sight. And thus the damage (financial/emotional/spiritual) that occurs to people that try to do a positive thing that seemingly is very straight forward. I wish it were as easy as it should. Though through my experience I feel that it is more practical & efficient for restaurants to contribute to the already existing Biodiesel Industry and help "fuel" these companies to create the change that the sustainability movement needs to be able to play on a level playing field. Dara Lor Summit Greasecycling

  4. Tim Maneely



    Mark, I appreciate your dedication to sustainable energy. I have a few questions for you with regards to your product: What is included for labor cost in the $0.95/gallon figure? What are the producers doing with the glycerin byproduct stream? How do you handle methanol storage at the restaurant? Tim Maneely, Knack Process Design

  5. Mark Roberts



    Hi Tim, Thanks for your questions. We don't include labor in our materials estimate - just ingredients and electricity (Keep in mind everything costs more in California, so I am guessing that number would be less in Minnesota). If we include labor, and we assume the worker is paid $20/hour, and it takes 30 minutes in total to interact with the BioPro™ for each 50 (or 100) gallon batch, then add 40¢ per gallon (or 20¢). However, the point is, you don't hire someone to operate the BioPro™. It's automation provides a unique ease of use profile, so we assume the user can "tack on" that responsibility to an existing paid employee. With regard to glycerin, here is the short list for the glycerin issue (the first being by far the coolest solution) Finally, we do not recommend storing methanol at the restaurant, but rather manage the methanol - and other ingredients - in an area remote from the public facility (BTW, we do not recommend use of the BioPro™ inside the restaurant). I am interested in the feedback on this issue. Everything we do at Springboard Biodiesel is dedicated to proliferating the safe use of high quality biodiesel. We happen to believe that the best way to do that is to go to the feedstock source and enable the safe, reliable, production of ASTM-grade biodiesel in situ. This virtually eliminates distribution cost; this further reduces the CO2 footprint and the carbon intensity of the process, and this makes the fuel less expensive to make, which should allow for broader consumption. For the four of you potentially still reading, I realize that our model is the antithesis of how energy markets have traditionally worked, and worked well. But traditional methods need to change. Aternative methods of production, distribution and consumption will have to emerge and contribute to the portfolio of non-petroleum based energy solutions that must grow in order to avoid further environmental degradation at the hands of the apathetic, entrenched status quo. Springboard Biodiesel has a business model that is relatively unorthodox and only time will tell if we can surmount the myriad obstacles placed before us by the history of energy production and consumption, but we're optimistic because it makes sense; it's easy; and it's economically viable. Mark Roberts.

  6. Sam



    I am a restaurateur in Sacramento Ca with 3 restaurants and have purchased a Bio Pro 190. My experience with making biodiesel has been very positive. Our 3 restaurants produce about 50 to 70 gallons per week of waste cooking oil and we make 1 to 1.5 batches a week of biodiesel that we run in our 2006 Sprinter delivery van. The process has been easily incorporated in our operation, taking about 2 hours per week, and we get our fuel for about $0.97 per gallon. We were being paid (when the price of used oil is good) about $200 per quarter for our used oil for all 3 restaurants, so this is more beneficial for our company. Sam

  7. Mandi McKay



    I've operated our BioPro 190 at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co since 2008 and so far we've converted almost 8,000 gallons of used vegetable oil from our onsite restaurant into biodiesel and used that fuel in our route trucks and agricultural equipment. We've made minor adjustments to our fuel filters and only use a 20% blend of biodiesel with traditional diesel. As Sam mentions above, the process typically takes less than 2hrs per week and the program has been well-established in our operations and has been an overall positive experience. Making our own biodiesel fits with our company ethics and culture and is a component of our holistic Sustainability Program at the brewery. Mandi.

  8. Kyle Capizzi



    Mandi and Sam would you please comment on how you dispose of glycerine and what those costs are? I have seen far too many versions of upscaled homebrew 1)storing away glycerin beause they don't know what to do with it, 2) dumping it, or 3) offloading glycerin still full of methanol off on soapmakers or other unsuspecting parties to trust many restaurants with this. Some methane digesters will take it, but that requires more effort than many are willing or financially able to expend.


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