The Bee, Apr 1, 2009

If a Portland Water Bureau truck is watering down your street this summer, you might detect a smell of barbeque, popcorn, or French fries coming from its exhaust pipe.

(news photo)

An Encore Oils employee collects used vegetable oil from a restaurant. In Salem, the oil is processed into biodiese, and used locally to power vehicles.

Courtesy of Empire Oils

This aroma is associated with the Water Bureau’s use of B99 – or 99.9% biodiesel – in its vehicles during the warmer months. During colder months, more petroleum-based fuel is mixed in to prevent solidifying.

Biodiesel is not to be confused with ethanol, which is a gasoline replacement, distilled mainly from corn. Biodiesel is a replacement for traditional diesel fuel, and is extracted from vegetable oil.

Many people may not realize that their local community can be a good source of vegetable oil for the production of biodiesel. In the Woodstock neighborhood, for example, Super Torta Restaurant on S.E. Woodstock Blvd. at 57th Avenue sells its used cooking oil to a local company, SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel.

Once a month, a vegetable oil collection company, Encore Oils – a subsidiary of SeQuential – picks up the used vegetable oil that Super Torta stores in a 55-gallon drum. From there, the used cooking oil is hauled to Salem, where it is processed into biodiesel.

The SeQuential-Pacific Biodiesel plant produces five million gallons of biodiesel a year.

Gavin Carpenter, who has worked as SeQuential’s regional sales manager for almost three years, says that the Burgerville at S.E. 25th and Powell, across from Cleveland High School, also sells its used cooking oil to SeQuential.

“What is cool, is to take something that is considered waste, and make it into fuel that is cleaner burning – and have all of the money stay in the Oregon economy,” Carpenter grins. “The biodiesel we process in Salem is made from 98% waste cooking oil.”

Once the used cooking oil is processed into biodiesel at the SeQuential plant in Salem, Star Oil Company trucks haul it back to Portland to a McCall Oil facility. Local oil companies come to McCall Oil to purchase the biodiesel and take it to homes for heating, and to storage tanks for city vehicles, among other destinations.

Carpenter, who drives his VW Jetta on biodiesel, claims the alternative fuel reduces his car’s green house gas emission by 78%.

He responds to the claim that using biodiesel requires more maintenance by explaining that biodiesel is a solvent. “It will actually clean out your fuel intake system. The sludge and dirt that builds up from using petroleum diesel is removed by using biodiesel. If you have a high blend in your car engine, it is a good idea to have an extra fuel filter on hand. It also has higher lubricity than petroleum diesel, which reduces wear and tear on engines.”

Individual households can also recycle their cooking oil. In these days of health consciousness, many households avoid making the deep-fat-fried donuts and French fries that once were family favorites, but deep-frying turkeys has become a choice for many, though a sometimes-hazardous one for those new to the process.

“Over the holidays, we collected 280 gallons of used cooking oil at a single public drop-off location,” reports Carpenter.

Household used cooking oil – canola, olive, soy, safflower, or corn – can be recycled at Far West Fibers, two blocks south of Holgate Boulevard at 4629 S.E. 17th Avenue, where the oil is stored in a mini-dumpster until it is trucked to Salem for processing.

To learn more about vegetable oil conversion to biodiesel, or how to recycle used cooking oil, go online to: