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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Fuels & Renewable Energy

San Francisco to Convert Grease-to-Biodiesel from Brown Grease

Yellow grease from restaurants is easily converted into biodiesel, while brown grease from is usually discarded at sewage treatment plants.

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California Energy Commission supports the first grease-to-biodiesel production facility

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced June 10, 2008 that the city has received $1 million dollars from the California Energy Commission to build the city's first grease-to-biodiesel production facility.

The facility, which will be built by the city's Public Utilities commission (SFPUC), will be located at the agency's Oceanside Sewage Treatment Plant.

The plan is considered unique because the facility would attempt to create three grades of biodiesel from "brown grease," which are pan scrapings and washed oil residue trapped in grease traps under restaurant sinks.

Mayor's office has identified more than 2.5 million gallons of brown grease in San Francisco, compared with 1.5 million gallons of "yellow grease," such as fryer oil.

The yellow grease is easily converted into biodiesel, while brown grease is usually 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 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.

San Francisco launched SFGreasecycle in November 2007. That program collects yellow grease from restaurants in order to power city vehicles, buses and fire trucks.

The construction of the new brown grease biodiesel facility should be complete in December 2008.

California Energy Commission officials said the agency is closely watching the project to help California's anticipated one-billion-gallon biodiesel shortfall expected by 2022.


Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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