Cross-Border Bio-Diesel Project Converts Restaurant Waste Oil into Clean Energy Fuel

“Fast food” takes on a whole new meaning thanks to an innovative project that will convert the fryer oil from restaurants and food production into a cleaner bio-diesel fuel for commercial utility vehicles.

The Northwest Energy Technology Collaborative (NWETC), an outgrowth of the Washington Technology Center’s Industries of Distinction program, received a $69,777 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct the Bio-Diesel 49 Degrees Border Project (Bio49).

Bio49 is a response to the EPA’s “West Coast Collaborative,” an initiative working to reduce diesel air pollution. The project derives its name from the 49th parallel latitude that crosses the U.S-Canada border near Washington state and British Columbia. The EPA grant, along with matching funds totaling $280,000, will be used to launch and fund the Bio49 project for one year.

The Bio-Diesel 49 Project is an ideal model of a business enterprise that blends technology innovation with environmental health and safety. Producing bio-diesel fuel for the commercial market creates industry growth and jobs, repurposes a waste product into a raw material, and offers a solution for cleaner air. It’s truly a win-win-win situation.

Bio49 aims to product 144,000 gallons of bio-diesel fuel in its first year of operation. This will replace 12,000 gallons of on-road diesel fuel each month with cleaner burning bio-diesel, reducing diesel emissions in the process. Replacing sulfur-based diesel with bio-diesel reduces emissions of particulate matter by 31 percent, carbon dioxide emissions by 24 percent, and hydrocarbons by 50 percent.

Bio49 creates a new revenue stream for waste oil, used as raw ingredient for the bio-fuel production, and serves as a model for workforce training programs in automotive and diesel manufacturing at technical and vocational schools. In addition, Bio49 aims to position the Northwest as a global leader in alternative energy resources and create a sustainable bio-diesel industry in the region.

The program and grant were announced at a press conference on October 3, 2005 hosted by Senator Maria Cantwell. The project will officially begin in January 2006, with bio-diesel production up and running, training underway and fuel being delivered to the utilities for use in their vehicles.

Bio49 involves 11 bi-national partners who are collaborating to produce and market bio-diesel fuel for commercial vehicles and develop a bio-diesel industry in the Pacific Northwest. Puget Sound Energy will use the fuel in a fleet of their utility vehicles that run along the U.S.-Canada border, testing various blends of the fuel ranging from 5 percent to 100 percent bio-diesel. Bio-diesel processors will be set up at Bellingham Technical College and students will be training on how to perform the process, which will be incorporated into the college’s academic curricula. The Washington Restaurant Association will be providing the used food oil, the base material, for the bio-diesel processing.

A parallel program will be set up with BC Hydro and partners in British Columbia. The processors and training are being provided by Bio-Diesel Works, a Bellingham company for both Washington and British Columbia. NWETC will oversee and manage the project and, with the help of WTC, will provide outreach and education on the program to stakeholders, the public and the media.

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