Source: Cape Cod Times, July 31, 2012
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com
Waste from hundreds of restaurants collects in the Sandwich industrial park, but this is no dump. Cape Cod BioFuels turns the grease and used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel, most of which ends up heating homes across the Cape.
The raw material, known in the industry as “yellow grease,” is refined at the BioFuels plant to meet the highest standards, ensuring it runs as efficiently as petroleum diesel. This biodiesel manufacturer is the only one in Massachusetts to meet the American Society for Testing and Materials quality requirements.
When blended with traditional diesel, this cleaner alternative fuel can heat homes without any tinkering with the system, said Kabraul Tasha, manager of Loud Fuel in Falmouth.
Cape Cod Times video: Biofuels — from waste to value
For Cape Cod BioFuels founders Marc Watson, Andrew Davison, and Jim Chace, the best part of the business is working with the community.
“We have that local flavor,” said Davison, a quip on the source of their fuel. BioFuels partners with over 700 restaurants with the goal of adding 100 new clients every year.
Ron Lopes, owner of Surf’s Up Pizza & Seafood in Sandwich, said a few years ago he had to pay to get rid of used frying oil. Now BioFuels pays him. Lopes said this amounts to a $3,000 to $7,000 swing for his restaurant each year.
Watson said their current facility can handle the refuse of 1,500 restaurants and produce 500,000 gallons of biodiesel a year. When they grow too big for the industrial park, the partners plan on opening new plants outside the Cape, replicating the process they’ve streamlined in Sandwich after trial and error.
At BioFuels, even the byproducts of the recycled “yellow grease” are recycled again. The food solids are filtered out and composted, and the glycerin and other chemicals are sent to an anaerobic digester in Maine that produces electricity.
The entrepreneurs are reinvesting heavily in the company they started in 2008. In the works are plans to update the refining process from batches to continuous flow. The newest addition, a centrifuge, will extract more oil from restaurant food waste.
Most of the biodiesel produced by Cape Cod BioFuels is sold to Loud Fuel, which in turn provides its customers with a blend containing at least 5 percent biodiesel.
The price of biodiesel is competitive, Kabraul said. Loud Fuel consistently offers one of the lowest prices for heating oil on the Cape, according to the Times’ weekly survey.
Loud also provides custom blends. Some diesel trucks can handle almost 100 percent biodiesel without modification. This is not the same as converters that allow vehicles to run on pure vegetable oil.
Robert Richard uses Loud’s biodiesel blend to heat his home in Brewster. The former engineer said the fuel produces less pollution than traditional diesel and is a much more cost-effective alternative energy than solar or geothermal.
Herb Bell of Harwich Port also gets his heating oil from Loud, but at a higher 20 percent blend. Because biodiesel burns cleaner than petroleum diesel, he said instead of cleaning his heating system once a year, he can get away with waiting three years. “And it’s no more expensive than No. 2 diesel,” Bell said.
Cape and Islands Self-Reliance started pushing for biodiesel before BioFuels even set up shop. Director Megan Amsler said the organization set goals in 2006 to reduce fossil fuel use by 50 percent and become a net exporter of green energy by 2020. She added that biodiesel is “very critical” to meeting those goals.
Amsler uses 99 percent biodiesel in her own car, a 2006 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, and said there was no loss in performance. When using higher portions of biodiesel for home heating, she said the only real risk was going through a few filters at first. Biodiesel tends to dissolve soot and residue left by petroleum diesel, stirring it up and putting an extra burden on the filter.
As a 100 percent biodegradable and renewable fuel source, there have been efforts at the state level to promote biodiesel use, but not without setbacks.
Steve Russell with the state Department of Energy Resources said Massachussetts has achieved 5 percent biodiesel in all state vehicles but that a mandate for 2 percent biodiesel in all transportation and heating fuel has been “on hiatus” since 2011.
He said the requirement was shelved because it would have increased fuel costs by a few cents per gallon and that verifying compliance would be challenging. Russell said Cape Cod, however, was setting a good example and “we want to replicate that success throughout the state.”
Watson said that the mandate would have guaranteed demand in an industry plagued by uncertainty. Davison pointed to Rhode Island as a state that encouraged the biodiesel industry. “They’re about five years ahead of us,” he said, in terms of infrastructure, grants, and zero fuel tax on biodiesel.
At the federal level, rebates for biodiesel expired in December. “We need a long-term commitment in order to make large capital investments,” Chace said about the shaky federal support.
Renewable fuel credits, a large source of income for BioFuels, also proved unreliable earlier this year. Oil producers are required to buy these credits to fulfill their renewable energy obligations. Several individuals and companies tried to sell counterfeit credits, which threw doubt over legitimate biodiesel producers and froze the energy credit market.
“We couldn’t sell RINs for three months,” Watson said, referring to the renewable identification numbers attached to each gallon of biodiesel. “Small producers like us were really hurt,” he said.
But the trio and their company survived, and according to the National Biodiesel Board, a trade group, they are part of a growing industry.
Board spokesman Kaleb Little said 112 million gallons of biodiesel was produced in 2005. Last year, total volume topped one billion gallons.
Cape Cod BioFuels has mirrored this trend. “We started small and grew,” Davison said.