Two innovative companies, Blackgold Biofuels and FogBusters, are unlocking the power of fat, oil, and grease (more pleasingly referred to in aggregate as "FOG"). The two startups are the runners-up in Imagine H20's Water-Energy Nexus Prize, which was created to attract and accelerate new water businesses with energy-saving innovation. Prizes were awarded earlier this week.
Blackgold Biofuels is operating FOG-to-Fuels, a pilot program to turn FOG into biodiesel at San Francisco's Wastewater Treatment Facility. FOG builds up in sewer pipes much like cholesterol does in an artery, and that backup causes some 10 billion gallons of untreated sewage flow each year (yuck). Blackgold's process, says CEO and co-founder Emily Bockian Landsburg, not only reduces the amount of energy needed to treat FOG but also results in "an environmentally friendly fuel that can be used onsite or sold for profit." Conversion to biodiesel offers the highest and best use for this material.
FogBusters has developed a patented technology that works in conjunction with existing systems to actually remove FOG from wastewater without the use of chemicals. The reasons why this is significant include the fact that there is currently so much FOG sludge it needs to be transported by truck to landfills, where it takes forever to break down. Removing FOG from the wastewater equation is, says FogBusters CEO Bradley Mart, "the first big breakthrough in oil/water separation in 25 years."