San Francisco was put on the map with the gold rush of 1849. Heck even our football team got its name from the infamous run on the hills. Well the 49ers may want to get ready to change their name to the 09ers or the Brownie Niners even. Okay well not the later because that has some bad connotations.
But if what a Philadelphia company claims is true, the city by the bay is in for a new gold rush. BlackGold Biofuels announced that it has struck oil gold right in downtown San Francisco. Not just any gold but brown gold. Yup, we mean brown and not black.
BlackGold Biofuels says it has developed a process to convert the millions of gallons of rancid, crude organic waste oil and greases from the city's sewers into usable bio diesel. Potty power at its finest. Take that PG&E.
"This is recycling on steroids -- taking one of our communities' most rancid wastes and converting it into one of our most valuable commodities," said BlackGold Biofuels CEO Emily Bockian Landsburg.
In fact on Thursday San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the first commercial installation of the technology.
"Our cutting-edge brown-grease-to-bio diesel plant will break new ground toward accessible, sustainable energy and serve as a model for the entire state and the country," Newsom said.
The city licensed the technology and purchased processing equipment to install it on site at its Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant.
And by November of this year, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission will produce bio diesel at a rate of 100,000 gallons per year.
How does it work? Well we are glad you asked. The grease is vacuumed out of the sewer on a regular basis and trucked to a waste water treatment plant where the haulers pay to dispose of it. The technology gives waste water treatment plants can convert the grease into a new revenue stream or keep the fuel for internal use.
As you might have guessed, the set up is the first commercial-scale production facility in the country.
Unlike oil from a restaurant deep fryer, the sewer grease is so foul that conventional bio diesel processing technology is not cost-effective and until now the grease has been considered a pollutant.
The SFPUC estimates that grease blockages in San Francisco sewers account for 50% of all sewer emergencies and annually costs the City $3.5 million in cleanings.
So here's to you San Francisco and your ability to see green beyond the floating brown.