$76K grant to fund biofuel for city

Published 11:28 pm Monday, September 22, 2008

Andalusia’s Power Plant Farmer’s Market will soon be generating energy again – only this time, it’ll be biodiesel fuel.

The city recently received a $76,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise grant to establish a biofuels plant, converting used cooking oil to biodiesel for use in the city vehicles.

The city has already let bids for the equipment, city clerk John Thompson said last week. The grant also will allow the city to purchase containers for recycling for residential and restaurant use, and the long-term plan is to pick up the used oil curbside, as the city does other recyclables. The decision was made to place the processor at the Farmer’s Market so that school groups and others interested in the process would have easy access for viewing it.

Thompson said that the processor for which the city is accepting bids will produce 200 gallons of biodiesel in a 24-hour period. The ratio of cooking oil to biodiesel fuel is close to one-to-one, he said.

The plans for use of the grant were presented to the mayor and members of the city council scheduled to take office in November at a meeting last week. Of concern was the effect a city recycling program for cooking oil might have on the program already operational at Shaw Industries.

Councilman Terry Powell, who is the financial manager at Shaw Industries, said the company’s effort is not a make-or-break financial deal, but has created political capital for Shaw.

“When we did this, we got a lot of press within Shaw,” Powell said, adding that the recycling effort helps Shaw keep and grow jobs.

Powell said employees bring oil to the plant, and that they’re also getting used oil from Opp and from Evergreen, as well as within the city of Andalusia.

“At this point, ours is about a 100 gallon-a-day operation,” he said.

Mayor-elect Earl Johnson said the city’s project could be a win-win, even if the city agrees to give a portion of the used cooking oil it collects to Shaw.

One of the biggest benefits, he said, is keeping the used oil out of the sewerage lines, which can save the city money. In addition, reducing the city’s need to purchase diesel fuel will be a benefit.