Brown grease demo biodiesel plant starts up

By | September 20, 2010

Posted Oct. 1, 2010

A demonstration plant located at the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Francisco constructed to produce biodiesel fuel from restaurant trap grease has begun operation.

The plant is the first municipal wastewater program in the United States to create biodiesel from the waste feedstock, according to developer URS Corp. The demonstration treatment plant will process 10,000 gallons per day of trap waste, recovering 300 to 500 gallons a day of brown grease and converting it to biodiesel.

The program is an extension of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's SFGreasecycle program to prevent fats, oils and grease (FOG) from being released into city sewers, where they solidify and constrict wastewater flow, causing back-ups and damage to sewer lines.

For the past three years, the SFPUC and URS have worked to develop a comprehensive FOG Control Program that considers the needs and characteristics of restaurant operators, city government, residents, environmental agencies and the commercial grease industry. The start-up of the brown-grease-to-biodiesel plant demonstrates the potential for urban areas to develop similar programs to collect and utilize FOG.

It is estimated that the demonstration plant will save about 1,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year with a commercial scale facility of more than 40,000 tons a year. A URS-developed, 12-month research and testing program will be used to monitor the brown grease recovery and biodiesel production plant's performance and to establish a business case that will facilitate program replication by other municipal agencies.

The program was financed by federal funds and approximately $1 million from the California Energy Commission.

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