San Francisco to use BlackGold Biofuels technology

By Ryan C. Christiansen | February 10, 2009
Web exclusive posted Feb. 11, 2009, at 11:08 a.m. CST

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has announced that BlackGold Biofuels (formerly known as Philadelphia Fry-o-Diesel) of Philadelphia, Pa., will be the technology provider for the city's demonstration-scale biodiesel plant that will convert brown grease into ASTM-quality biodiesel.

BlackGold said it has developed and demonstrated the conversion process at its Philadelphia pilot-scale plant over the past four years and has begun licensing the technology.

"It's not a demonstration to prove the technology is there-it's a proven technology," said Karri Ving, biofuels coordinator for the SFPUC. "The purpose of the demonstration is to provide a commercialization pathway for these emerging technologies to bring the price of this conversion in line per gallon with the cost of diesel and biodiesel so that it is commercially viable. We're doing that by locating their processor within the walls of our sewage treatment plant to take advantage of cost-savings: a hot water loop, latent heating, the transportation corridor, the existing permitting, and the discharge into our treatment works-all of that drops down the cost."

BlackGold credits early grant support from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and technical collaboration with the USDA Agricultural Research Service for its success.

Brown grease, typically disposed of at sewage treatment plants, is identified as the dark substance that remains in grill traps and grease interceptors under restaurant kitchen sinks. Brown grease has very high free fatty acid content and is not typically considered for use as a biodiesel feedstock, but rather is transferred to an incinerator or landfill.

San Francisco officials estimate there are 2.5 million gallons of brown grease in the city. When the new facility at the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant is completed in November, the SFPUC will produce 100,000 gallons of biodiesel per year, BlackGold estimates. The biodiesel will include three types: ASTM-certified biodiesel; a lower-grade fuel for running sewage treatment plant turbines and pumps; and energy to fuel cogeneration, capturing methane gas to convert it to electricity.

The SFPUC estimates that grease blockages in San Francisco sewers account for 50 percent of all sewer emergencies and annually costs the city $3.5 million in cleanings, BlackGold said.

In addition, the SFPUC announced it has received a $175,000 grant from the U.S. EPA to produce a how-to manual for other cities to follow San Francisco's lead.

"The second goal is replication," Ving said. "We want to take this model and write a business case for it, write the cost-benefit analysis, the greenhouse gas emission-saving profile, and be able to open source all of that information in the form a toolbox. That is what the EPA grant provides."

In May 2008, the city received a $1 million grant from the California Energy Commission for the project.

For more information, see the following Biodiesel Magazine articles:
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