SF Gets $1Mil for Biodiesel

(May 29, 2008)

Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced the receipt of a $1 million California Energy Commission (CEC) grant to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to build the City's first pilot grease-to-biodiesel production facility.

The facility will be sited at the SFPUC's Oceanside Sewage Treatment Plant, and is considered unique because it will attempt to create three grades of biodiesel from "brown grease," which are pan scrapings and washed oil residue trapped in grease traps/interceptors under a restaurant sink. There are more than 2.5 million gallons of brown grease in the city, compared with 1.5 million gallons of "yellow grease" like fryer oil.

Biodiesel from grease is easily created using the cleaner yellow grease, while brown grease is typically discarded at sewage treatment plants.

"Our program to turn waste cooking oil and yellow grease into biodiesel has been an enormous success, but San Francisco must continue to raise the bar when it comes to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and exploring alternative energies," said Mayor Newsom.

"With this grant, our unique brown-grease-to-biodiesel plant will break new ground for sustainable fuel production in California and serve as a model for the entire state."

Brown grease can be refined and created into three "grades" of biodiesel:

· High-grade American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) certified biodiesel for vehicles;

· Lower grade biofuel source for running sewage treatment plant diesel plant turbines and pumps; and

· Rich energy for cogeneration--the process of capturing methane gas at the sewage plant and converting that to heating/electrical needs.

The CEC is looking closely at this and similar projects to help cover California's anticipated one billion gallon shortfall of biodiesel by 2022. The shortfall is anticipated even with a growing number of yellow grease recycling programs like the SFGreasecycle, which the City launched in November 2007 to collect yellow grease from restaurants to fuel City vehicles, buses and fire trucks. The SFPUC, which manages the SFGreasecycle program, will also manage the brown grease pilot project. The construction of the brown grease biodiesel facility should be complete in December 2008.

"Sewage treatment plants account for 3 percent of the nation's electrical consumption because they run 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington, "This brown-grease to biodiesel project is a win-win for our ratepayers and the environment. We'll keep more grease out of the sewers and reduce our reliance on outside energy sources for our treatment plants."