Developed Innovative Strategy for Biofuel Startup
My Role: COMPETITIVE RESEARCH/MARKET INSIGHT • STRATEGIC PLAN DEVELOPMENT • GRANT WRITING • TECHNICAL/EXPERT EVALUATION
How might the Energy Cooperative launch a viable biofuel company?
• Feedstock selection is key for success
• Innovation would garner opportunity for startup funds
• Unique approach would situate the Energy Cooperative as a leader in the nascent biofuels industry
Cutting edge biodiesel
The Energy Cooperative, in Philadelphia, desired to enter the biodiesel manufacturing market but had little details beyond this vague ambition. The Cooperative’s primary mission was providing residential electricity. It had no background in biofuels.
The Cooperative was familiar with my project, Fat of the Land, that demonstrated small scale biodiesel production, and brought me on board as a researcher. Outside of the Fat of the Land, I too had very limited knowledge about biodiesel manufacturing, the nascent biofuels market and fuel manufacturing in general. I was a researcher, not an environmental engineer.
ACADEMIC AND FIELD RESEARCH/ANALYSIS
Within a few months I quickly built up a knowledge base, identified emerging leaders and possible treatment technologies to be pursued. I recognized that a key to success would be determining the appropriate feedstock. While waste grease from restaurants was showing strong potential, the opportunities to access this waste was not an option in Philadelphia. I then turned my attention to another type of grease, one that was creating a myriad of problems in the sewer system, trap grease. Quantities and availability were sufficient for a meaningful operation and environmental engineers I consulted thought this waste feedstock had strong potential.
TECHNICAL EXPERT EVALUATION
Through extensive research and interviews with technical engineers of varying degrees of credibility, I identified and negotiated with the most promising experts to assist with this proposed innovative approach to biodiesel manufacturing.
Based on my recommendation to pursue trap grease as a feedstock, I co-authored a successful grant to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Quality, securing $250,000 to support a pilot project. This became the first effort in the United States to explore the use of this type of feedstock for biofuels.