Springboard Biodiesel markets the BioPro to restaurants. Image: Springboard Biodiesel
Biodiesel has gathered a cult following over many years, but outside of a few companies and co-ops, getting an assurance on consistency and quality--especially above b20 (20 percent biodiesel), or for a newer vehicle--can be an issue.
Springboard Biodiesel has a solution, and could turn your company, or the fast-food franchise on the strip, into a biodiesel refiner. Their BioPro 190 system simplifies the process of converting waste cooking oil into ASTM-grade biodiesel; all you need is a BioPro unit, fifty gallons of waste cooking oil (filtered and dewatered, please), some methanol, potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide for a catalyst and some sulfuric acid. The BioPro unit takes care of the heating, mixing and separation, and 48 hours later you have fuel-grade biodiesel.
Better yet, Springboard claims that the fuel can be used in any diesel powered vehicle, not just those converted specifically to run on biodiesel. That goes counter to the recommendations from manufacturers, so make sure you know what’s approved for use in your own diesel powered car before you place an order for a BioPro unit.
Pricing on the BioPro 190 starts at just $9,995, but the lower capacity, less automated BioPro 150 starts at just $6,995. That makes the devices attractive enough for both small businesses and the diehard biodiesel home brewer. Springboard claims that you can produce biodiesel for as little as ninety cents per gallon, but that assumes you’re getting the waste cooking oil for free, and many restaurants have realized that used cooking oil has a value associated with it. To process the used cooking oil, you’ll need to find a local supplier for your catalyst material, sulfuric acid and methanol. The process requires water and electricity, too, so it’s likely that your own costs will vary by location.
This is, of course, bad news for the hobbyists and back-yard biodiesel producers who've been for years getting biodiesel for free at some restaurants; if restaurants decide to make a business of it, that's the end of their supply.
Springboard will be displaying the BioPro system at the upcoming National Restaurant Association show in Chicago. The company hopes to present the units as a viable ancillary business for restaurants and fast food franchises. If the idea takes off, you may someday hear the voice at the drive-through asking, “Did you want fries or biodiesel with that?”