Biofuel Production From Grease Trap Waste

EPA Contract Number: EPD14019
Title: Biofuel Production From Grease Trap Waste
Investigators: Hums, Megan E
Small Business: Environmental Fuel Research, LLC
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: May 1, 2014 through April 30, 2015
Project Amount: $100,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Waste to Energy Systems , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, proposes to commercialize a grease trap waste to biofuel process based on process research from Drexel University. Grease trap waste is dirty and low-value material produced by the food service industry that is high in lipids that can be converted to biodiesel. The quantity of grease trap waste in the United States could produce one-half billion gallons of biodiesel, which is approximately one-half the current domestic biodiesel capacity and ten times the potential production from waste fryer oil.

Grease-to-biodiesel processes benefit grease collectors through reduced disposal costs and consumers through improved environmental impacts. However, there are several challenges to converting grease trap waste to biodiesel that have thwarted attempts at commercialization. Grease trap waste composition varies widely between 2 to 30 percent lipids, and the energetic costs of separating small amounts of brown grease lipids from wastewater can be prohibitive; this project includes a longitudinal study to document the variability in lipid content and research into low-energy lipid concentration methods. Brown grease contains highly degraded oils and fats that are 50 to 100 percent free fatty acids, which are difficult to convert to biodiesel; a bubble column reactor developed at Drexel is robust for converting free fatty acids to biodiesel even in the presence of impurities and water. Brown grease, and crude biodiesel produced from brown grease, contains sulfur far in excess of the specifications for biodiesel; collaborating researchers at Drexel and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are actively researching wiped-film evaporation and other purification techniques that have demonstrated significant reductions in sulfur content. The prior research by the project team and collaborators is promising. This SBIR Phase l project will address the uncertainties that are critical to commercial feasibility and environmental impacts through several research objectives: (1) demonstrate production of ASTM-quality biodiesel from grease trap waste; (2) conduct a longitudinal study of grease trap waste composition; (3) revise techno-economic and life cycle models to evaluate economic feasibility and environmental impacts; and (4) prepare a detailed commercialization plan to enable scale up in a subsequent Phase II project.

Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, is focused on sustainable fuel solutions for the future; it is a woman-owned start-up headquartered in a HUB Zone, demonstrating the company's commitment to diversity. Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, has assembled a strong team of academic chemical engineers, process researchers, biodiesel practitioners and analytical chemists with the right set of skills to achieve the aims of this project.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Biofuel, biodiesel, grease trap waste, lipids

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • SBIR Phase II:

    Biofuel Production from Grease Trap Waste  | Final Report