Grease Traps To Fuel Tanks: Biodiesel Venture Brings Tech To Wastewater Treatment Plant
by Brian Dowling (Hartford Current) …Richard Parnas, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Connecticut’s Institute of Materials Science, a few years ago started converting the school’s used cooking oil, known as yellow grease, to biodiesel. The results are tested for purity, then pumped into buses that run around the campus.
As this process became widespread, demand for yellow grease increased, making the fuel source less profitable. Its popularity made it a commodity, which is now being traded around $2.16 a gallon. Profit margins thinned for biodiesel firms in the United States. Today, yellow grease renderers in the United States mainly ship their product to Europe, where higher fuel prices make it a viable source for biofuel.
…”Brown grease is the next frontier in the race to the bottom,” said Parnas, who works on the technology at UConn’s Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering. “Brown grease is just like it sounds, a fairly disgusting thing.”
In the next few months, Parnas’ company, RPM Sustainable Technologies, will set up a operational prototype at the wastewater treatment plant in Torrington. (RPM stands for three of the company’s founders, Fred Robson, Richard Parnas and Rich Madrak.) Their technology is a combination of electrical panels, small containers for grease, and a large, capped metal cylinder suspended at a 45-degree angle with tubes running in and out. It mixes oils from the brown grease with methanol to make biodiesel.
At room temperature, brown grease is the consistency of peanut butter. It’s what accumulates in the grease traps of deep fryers. In Connecticut, restaurants have this waste taken to regional wastewater treatment plants.
Parnas’ process splits the brown grease into oils and biosolids. The oils are converted to biodiesel, and the biosolids, Parnas said, can be transformed into another fuel source called synthesis gas. Together, the waste is a multi-billion dollar opportunity, he said. READ MORE