If we’re not short on feedstock around here, then we’re short on storage. If we’re short on storage, then we’re either drowning in feedstock, or the way the feedstock is divided is a problem.
Capacity and the conventional notions of supply and demand applied to the manufacture of biodiesel from used cooking oil are anachronistic at best, applied by the foolhardy and overly optimistic.
Used cooking oil prices have increased 50% in the last year, from a low of roughly .16/lb to a recent high of .36/lb. That’s $2.70 per gallon.
Used cooking oil is a limited resource, valued for a variety of applications including feeding cattle and poultry, industrial lubricants, and even recycling and reuse for human consumption in other countries.
At the cooperative we collect and purchase used cooking oil for conversion to biodiesel and other methyl ester products. We also take oil from members and clean it for their use. The rendering component of our endeavor is the area we were least prepared for; I had planned on cleaner oil, and even though I had experience pumping oil before starting the cooperative, I had overestimated the ability to selectively pick and choose the right accounts to essentially cherry pick the easiest oils to deal with while underestimating the impact the greatest recession in modern history would have on the sushi restaurants in our 150 mile service area.
Oil collection costs are also a factor often underestimated in most of the biodiesel business plans I am often asked to peer review.
Its expensive stuff. Pumps. Pumper trucks for the more advanced or affluent. Collection containers, marketing materials,Â salariesÂ and/orÂ commissionsÂ for the sales staff. Last, but far from the least, are the pumpers themselves, a rare breed of folks who can dedicate themselves to overcoming the smells and the spills that are part of every day on the job.
The secret is that sustainable energy from recycling is not a pristine endeavor. It is messy. It smells. There are times when it is closer to sewer maintenance or waste remediation than it is to bioscience or chemistry.
We should not forget that nature has made waste management essential for a healthy ecosystem. In fact, in natural systems there is no waste. The closer we as a society come toÂ achievingÂ natures balance in our pursuit of energy, the closer we come to achieving true balance; true sustainability.
Nature does notÂ over complicateÂ things with free market economics. Without human interference what is sustainable in nature thrives; what is not faces extinction.
So many of the opportunities in front of us will require careful planning, technical expertise, and preparedness to realize favorable results.
When I started Promethean I was looking for something simple. Waste made into sustainable energy.
A simple plan, so challenging in reality that every day is transformed into an adventure. The challenges are breathtaking, the sense of accomplishment tremendous, the possibilities endless.
Make it a better place.