Plant to Create Biodiesel From Grease

A demonstration plant that creates biodiesel fuel from restaurant trap grease (commonly called brown grease), located at the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Francisco, has begun operation. It is the first municipal wastewater program in the United States to create biodiesel from the waste feedstock. The demonstration treatment plant will process 10,000 gallons per day of trap waste, recovering 300-500 gallons a day of brown grease and converting it to biodiesel.

The program is an extension of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s (SFPUC) 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 Corporation 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.

The demonstration plant will save about 1,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents a year with a commercial scale facility of more than 40,000 tonnes a year. A 12-month research and testing program will monitor the brown grease recovery and biodiesel production plant’s performance and establish a business case that will make it easier for other municipal agencies to set up their own programs.

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

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