Pacifica biodiesel to be sold ahead of plant’s construction

Though the first recycled biodiesel plant on the Peninsula has been delayed, the plant’s builders are planning to begin selling biodiesel in January.

While waiting to get all the necessary permits for the plant in Pacifica, Whole Energy, the plant’s Washington-based builders, began collecting vegetable oil from local restaurants and will convert it to biodiesel at an unidentified private plant for the local market.

Whole Energy began collecting waste oil four months ago after receiving a $620,000 grant from the California Air Resources Board to build a plant that would share operations with Pacifica’s wastewater treatment plant, saving the city money and making biodiesel available locally.

Whole Energy is one-third of a partnership that also includes the city and a local nonprofit, Livability Project, whose members introduced the idea of a local plant.

The $2 million plant is expected to produce 3 million gallons of fuel per year, part of which could be used to power SamTrans buses operating in the city and produce energy for the plant and the nearby Calera Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. City officials said the city could save up to $200,000 in annual energy costs.

“It’s a significant win for the city,” City Manager Steve Rhodes said. “We’re not investing any money into the plant and have the return coming out.”

Rhodes said the plant, which will use only recycled oil, will also help the city keep sewage pipes clean of grease.

Whole Energy has yet to get approval from the California Coastal Commission and the Bay Area Quality Management District. Martin Wahl, the company’s director of business development, said the permitting process seems to be moving favorably.

Getting all the permits pushed the plant’s opening from the first quarter of 2008 into 2009. But with early fuel production starting this month, local biodiesel drivers will not have to go on empty.

svasilyuk@examiner.com

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