From Grease to Gold: Creating Biodiesel

A post on yesterday's Flying Kite led us to BlackGold Biofuels, an impressive company that specializes in converting sewer Fat, Oil, and Greases (FOG) into biodiesel.

This past summer, the company earned itself some buzz (see this New York Times article) by converting an 800-lb sculpture of Benjamin Franklin and the Liberty Bell into biodiesel fuel. What was the sculpture made of? Butter.

BlackGold's defining product is the FOG-to-FUEL system, which uses a chemical process to take greases (which were, before this system was created, difficult to dispose of in a cost effective manner) and transforms them in to one of three bioproducts: biodiesel fuel, biobunker fuel, or glycerin.

BlackGold sells this system to companies (a biodiesel plant in San Francisco that utilizes the system was built last summer), and also offers consulting services. If more companies begin utilizing the innovative technology, it could literally transform a major issue that is clogging the country's sewer systems.

From BlackGold's website:

Like cholesterol in an artery, FOG builds up on the sides of sewer pipes, eventually leading to overflows. The US EPA estimates that sewer grease causes 10 billion gallons of untreated sewage overflow each year. In the last three years, 40% of US sewer systems in the reported overflow-related violations of the Clean Water Act, sickening 20 million people each year and resulting in millions of dollars of damages to property water sources. At the treatment plant, sewer grease costs utilities millions in operations, energy demand, and infrastructure wear and tear. Wastewater treatment plants nationwide already spend millions annually to treat wastewater; over the next 14 years it is estimated that $202 billion must be invested in public wastewater facilities to continue operations. The presence of FOG in wastewater complicates the treatment process and adds additional costs and energy demands.