On Feb 4th, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, EPA, and California Energy Commission held a press conference announcing the first commercial-scale brown grease to biodiesel facility in the country. After an international search, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission selected BlackGold Biofuels’ conversion technology for the project. The City has purchased a technology license and associated processing equipment from BlackGold that will be utilized at its award-winning Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant.
By November 2009, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SF PUC) will produce biodiesel at a rate of 100,000 gallons per year exclusively from this sewer trap grease (a rancid grease generically referred to as “brown grease”). The SF PUC is pioneering this small installation as a model for public and private sewage treatment plants, and through a grant from EPA will develop a toolkit to facilitate implementation of this technology at cities across the nation. BlackGold is poised for rapid growth as San Francisco markets this technology to other municipalities as part of their grant.
San Francisco estimates that grease blockages in San Francisco sewers account for 50% of all sewer emergencies and annually costs the City $3.5 million in cleanings. Creating an incentive to keep grease out of the sewers should greatly reduce that figure. But even this massive savings is dwarfed by cost savings related to reducing wear and tear on the sewer infrastructure. Grease blockages are removed by jetting, chipping, even jackhammering, abrasive actions that reduce sewer line lifespan. According to SF Public Utilities Commission consultant Biofuel Recycling, the sewer system is the City’s largest linear asset, worth approximately $9.5 Billion. Biofuel Recycling estimates that conservatively, clearing blockages reduces infrastructure lifespan by 0.5%. Therefore grease blockages are costing the City approximately $24 Million a year in reduced infrastructure lifespan.
Converting this grease into biodiesel not only solves a pollution problem and reduces operations and maintenance costs, it provides fuel for the PUC. The conversion by-products can be utilized in other processes at the treatment plant.
Read the full Press Release on MSNBC.