Port of San Francisco approves 10 MMgy plant

By Luke Geiver | November 17, 2010
Posted Dec. 8, 2010

The Port of San Francisco may be the new home to a 10 MMgy biodiesel production facility. After nearly two years of multiple reviews and environmental analysis assessments, the Port Commission of San Francisco approved a proposal by Darling International to convert part of a tallow rendering plant into a biodiesel facility. In 2006 there was interest in biodiesel, according to Richard Berman, regulatory specialist for the real estate division of the Port of San Francisco. At the time, Darling International was sending tallow products off to cosmetics and soaps manufacturers, and then the company proposed to divert some of that to biodiesel, Berman said. "We agreed upon a set of terms for them to modify their lease, which would allow them to make biodiesel."

The Port initially approved the project, but due to objections by members of the community, the process was stalled. "It was not an objection to the proposed project," Berman said, but rather to the process, "which they felt was a little quick for a project of this size."

After roughly a year-long review process that started nearly two-and-a-half years later, "We got through all of that reanalysis, and the determination was that there would be no significant environmental impact or no additional required mitigation." During that time, Darling also hired a health risk consultant over concerns of odorous emission from the tallow. The consultant developed a sampling and analysis plan and a health risk assessment. The plan was then reviewed by several members of the community including staff from the Port, the city, the department of public health and others. Berman said, "After everybody agreed to the analysis, Darling conducted the sampling and analysis and the health risk assessment, and the results were really quite good-and reassuring."

Essentially, the results showed there were no significant risks associated with exposure to odorous emissions, Berman said. "Darling took a good-faith step with being a good neighbor here," he added, "and generated some really novel data."

Now, although Darling has no obligation to produce biodiesel under the approved amendment, Berman said the Port Commission is hopeful that any biodiesel produced at the facility will be blended and consumed in the community. "There has been some talk of a fuel dock for biodiesel for water vessels," he said. "That was our primary, next step, but we are still working on that." The facility will remain in the current Darling location located on Pier 92, in an industrial setting.

"Darling International's expansion into a biodiesel production facility at Pier 92 is another example of the commitment San Francisco is making to ensure a clean energy future," Mayor Gavin Newsom said of the possible plant. "With this facility, we will be able to transform a locally generated waste into a low-carbon fuel to power local vehicles and create local green jobs. It doesn't get much green than that."

A local ferry fleet that provides tours of the Bay currently uses B20 for all passenger vessels, and 98 percent of San Francisco and the county's diesel fleet operates on a biodiesel blend, roughly 1,600 vehicles. Port executive director Monique Moyer said the project is consistent and supportive of the city's policies "to increase the recycling value of fats, oils and grease and promote the use and availability of alternative fuels."
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