Unique Oakland biodiesel project receives $3.4 million grant

By Ron Kotrba | April 08, 2015

Viridis Fuels, a state-of-the-art biodiesel project in Oakland, California, is prepared to receive an official notice of award today for a $3.4 million state grant at a California Energy Commission business meeting in Sacramento. A notice of proposed award to Viridis Fuels was given in December after a revision of the original selection proposal excluded the company. Four other companies, including Crimson Renewable Energy LP, Community Fuels, AltAir Fuels LLC and UrbanX Renewables Group Inc., were also included in the award proposal. 

Viridis Fuels plans to build what it calls “America’s most visible biodiesel plant,” as its project site is situated in the Port of Oakland—the fifth busiest shipping container port in the U.S.—at the foot of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge five minutes from San Francisco where more than 225,000 drivers cross on a given day, Viridis Fuels President Mario Juarez told Biodiesel Magazine.

The company envisions one of the most unique biodiesel plant designs, aesthetically speaking, with a sleek wall of LED lighting obscuring the tankage and process equipment. Viridis intends to gain project partnerships with diesel auto manufacturers, displaying their vehicles on the LED wall and illuminating the benefits of both biodiesel fuel and clean diesel technology.

“You need to be creative in today’s market,” Juarez said.

Viridis Fuels has chosen SRS Engineering to provide a turnkey operation that will utilize low-quality, low-cost feedstock for manufacturing up to 20 MMgy of biodiesel and 4 MMgy of technical-grade glycerin. The SRS Engineering biodiesel process at Viridis Fuels will include degumming, bleaching, cold soak filtration, transesterification and esterification, patented resin purification, and removal of sulfur and heavy metals.

Viridis Fuels has a long-term land lease agreement for its project site in the port, one that has already been approved by the California Natural Resources Agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“Gaining CEQA approval was our biggest environmental hurdle,” Juarez said.

He added that the city of Oakland has provided only one franchisee—Oakland Maritime Support Services—approval for the next 35 years to sell fuel to the 10,000 diesel trucks entering the port daily. Juarez said Viridis has signed an agreement to sell up to 5 MMgy of its biodiesel for distribution in the port as B20.

With such high truck traffic in and out of the port, biodiesel blends from Viridis Fuels can help clean the air for local residents who, according to Juarez, suffer inordinately high rates of asthma.

“Poor people live near the port,” he said, adding that Viridis Fuels seeks a modicum of environmental justice for those less fortunate by providing a cleaner fuel option for trucks in the area.

Juarez said part of Viridis Fuels’ appeal to investors is the executive team and board of directors.

“We have a solid board with members from different business backgrounds,” he said.

The Viridis Fuels board of directors includes Chairman Elihu M. Harris Jr., an attorney, business owner and former Oakland mayor; Vice Chair Dan Boggan, a current board member of Clorox & Collective Brands Inc., the former vice chancellor of UC Berkeley, and former NCAA senior vice president and chief operating officer; and Chief Financial Advisor Arnold Grisham, the president and CEO of Tri Valley Bank and former member of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank Board. The CEO of Viridis Fuels is Kathy Neal, a former California environmental regulator and Port of Oakland commissioner with 30-plus years of business experience.

“For us, we have a statement to make,” Juarez said. “We are a women-owned, black-owned, Latino-owned company. Black women and Latinos have a place in industries like biodiesel.” 


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