S.F. Lands $1.2M in State and Federal Grants for New 'Brown Grease' Biodiesel Plant and Development of 'How-to' Manual for Cities across Nation
Grants from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Energy Commission fund innovative S.F. pilot project to turn previous waste-only brown grease into biofuel
02/4/09 - Mayor Gavin Newsom, today joined the California Energy Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) to announce an innovative state and federal grant-funded biofuel project by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) that will potentially serve as a model for cities throughout the nation. $1 million dollars from the California Energy Commission will galvanize the City’s first brown grease-to-biodiesel plant to break new ground for sustainable fuel production in California, with the U.S. EPA’s grant ensuring it serves as a tangible model—via a "how-to" manual or open source toolkit—for cities across the entire nation to replicate the project.
Though programs to turn yellow cooking oil into biofuel are increasingly popular, this project makes full use of the "brown grease" that is currently discarded as waste. Brown grease is the mix of used oils and food scrapings that flow down the sink drain during dishwashing, food preparation, and daily cleaning. In commercial kitchens, before brown grease has a chance to enter the sewer pipes, it is captured in a mechanism called a "grease trap." Putting this previous waste-only product to use, San Francisco will refine brown grease collected from restaurants and residents and create multiple types of alternative energy.
"Thanks to these collective grants, our cutting-edge brown-grease-to-biodiesel plant will break new ground toward accessible, sustainable energy and serve as a model for the entire state and the country," said Mayor Gavin Newsom.
The pilot project is a joint public-private collaboration between the SFPUC, BlackGold Biofuels, and URS. The brown grease biodiesel plant will be constructed at the award-winning Oceanside Treatment Plant next to the San Francisco Zoo. It will be the first of its kind combining a sewage treatment plant with this new technology to generate three different types of alternative energy sources:
1. High-grade, road-worthy certified biodiesel for vehicles;
2. Lower grade boiler fuel for running sewage treatment plant equipment; and
3. Converted methane to run the treatment plant
"This City has long been a leader in biodiesel and serves as a role model for what communities can do with renewable energy," said Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board CEO. "We are proud to be a part of driving powerful innovations such as this new technology to convert higher volumes of waste oils."
The program is an extension of the SFPUC’s existing SFGreasecycle program that since 2007 has been collecting used cooking oil for free and recycling it into biodiesel. In addition to providing a renewable fuel source, the diversion of the Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) helps save cities money from costly grease-related sewage backups. 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.
"By investing in projects like SFGreasecycle, we are demonstrating California's significant commitment to fund innovative research and development projects," said California Energy Commission Vice Chair James Boyd. "With efforts like this, California continues to be a bold leader in its pursuit of technologies that drive our economy and benefit our environment."
"This project brings together diverse partners to achieve multiple environmental benefits, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect San Francisco's water and minimize waste," said Deborah Jordan, the U.S. EPA’s Air Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "By making this tool kit available to others to replicate, you are expanding the environmental benefits beyond the city of San Francisco."
Sewage treatment plants account for three percent of the nation’s electrical consumption because they run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By keeping grease out of the sewers and reducing reliance on outside energy sources, projects like the SFPUC’s brown-grease to biodiesel project are a win-win for ratepayers and the environment.
"This is the perfect marriage between local sewage plants and the ability to generate a sustainable resource for the benefit of the public and the environment," said SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington.
For more details about SFPUC’s existing SFGreasecycle collection program, please visit www.SFGreasecycle.org.