Company Studies Grease-to-Biodiesel Feasibility

John Davis

A Missouri company is looking into the feasibility of turning fat, oil and grease (FOG) in urban sewers into clean-burning biodiesel.

Biodiesel magazine reports that H2O’C Engineering’s study is funded by $50,000 from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources:

The study will focus collecting FOG from two Missouri metropolitan areas, Kansas City and St. Louis. “We are looking at what they call the ‘grease-shed,’” [Tom O’Connor, the owner of H2O’C Engineering] said. Similar to a watershed, a grease-shed is essentially the pattern of where FOG originates and how it flows into the sewer system. “We’ve also got a particular eye on waste water treatment facilities,” O’Connor said, which will include quantifying how much FOG is present in the wastewater systems and whether or not it is feasible to convert that material into biodiesel.

“[FOG] is problematic nasty stuff,” O’Connor said. “They have problems with it throughout the sewers, all of the collection pipes. It tends to clog up pipes and pump stations and that sort of thing. Optimally, it wouldn’t be there. It’s a complete nuisance, and we’re going to capitalize on the fact that it is there. When it gets to the water treatment plants, it’s generally skimmed off and landfilled. It’s pretty nasty stuff, but it does have energy content, and with enough cleanup, we think we can make it into on-spec biodiesel.”

However, O’Connor also noted that it’s important not to encourage people to think it is okay to put FOG down the drain. Ideally, the better option would be to capture that material before it ends up in the sewer. “We’re going to look at capturing it whenever and wherever we can,” O’Connor continued. “Optimally that would be more upstream than downstream.”

The study is looking at what restaurants and other FOG producers are doing with their grease, and where it is flowing. The study is to be completed by January 2011.