Fuel's Rise Fuels Rise in Grease Thefts - Mercedes-Benz Forum

 
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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 05-21-2008, 12:54 PM Thread Starter
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Fuel's Rise Fuels Rise in Grease Thefts

SAN FRANCISCO — A few years ago, drums of used french fry grease were only of interest to a small network of underground biofuel brewers, who would use the slimy oil to power their souped-up antique Mercedes.

Now, restaurants from Berkeley, Calif., to Sedgwick, Kan., are reporting thefts of old cooking oil worth thousands of dollars by rustlers who are refining it into barrels of biofuel in backyard stills.

“It’s like a war zone going on right now over grease,” said David Levenson, who owns a grease hauling business in San Francisco’s Mission District. “We’re seeing more and more people stealing grease because it lets them stay away from the pump, but it’s hurting our bottom line.”

Levenson, who converted the engine in hise_SSRq83 Mercedes to run on straight canola oil, has built up contracts to collect the liquid leftovers from 400 restaurants in the past two years.

Last week when his pump truck arrived at Thee Parkside, a dive bar known for its chili-cheese fries, his driver found that someonealready had helped himself to their barrel of yellow oil.

The Oregon Restaurant Association says it isn’t hearing reports of grease thefts from its members. But Bill Perry, vice president of government affairs for the association, said Oregon, in general, is behind some areas of the country in terms of processing cooking grease into biofuel.

“It’s expensive to process, there are areas of the country that are better than we are,” he said. A lot the initial work needs to be done by restaurants before they can charge a premium for their used cooking oil or grease, making it cost effective. And most Oregon restaurants aren’t at that point yet.

“If someone was stealing (restaurant grease), a lot of them would be happy right now,” he said.

Grease is transformed into fuel through a chemical process called transesterification, which removes glycerine and adds methanol to the oil, leaving a thinner product that can power a diesel engine. Biodiesel also canbe blended with petroleum diesel, and blends of the alternative fuel are now sold at 1,400 gas stations across the country.

But as the price of diesel shoots up, so, too, does the value of grease.

In the past three years, the price of soybean oil — the main feedstock for biodiesel made in the United States — has tripled.

Last week, a gallon of crude soybean oil fetched 66 cents on the open market, according to the National Biodiesel Board.

Those kinds of numbers have encouraged biofuel enthusiasts to plunder restaurants’ greasy waste, and have even spurred the city of San Francisco to get into the grease-trap cleaning business.

“Restaurants and staff are no longer looking at this material as trash, they’re looking at is as something that’s about to go into city vehicles,” said Karri Ving, who runs the city’s new waste cooking oil collection program. “Unless you lock down every trash can, thefts are going to happen.”

Drivers for Blue Sky Bio-Fuels, a grease hauler that also manufactures biodiesel for San Francisco’s municipal program, often find the 300-gallon trash bin they store outside the Oakland Coliseum nearly dry, despite the dozens of concessions stands that regularly dump their oil there.

Standard Biodiesel in Seattle recently started working with police to try to catch the fly-by-night home-brewers who are pilfering oil.
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 05-21-2008, 01:06 PM
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