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Powering Restaurants WIth Deep Fried Fuel 148

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-power-of-grease dept.
Mike writes "Here's a brilliant idea for biofuels: rather than filtering used fry oil for use in vehicles, why not simplify matters and use it to heat and power the restaurant itself? The VegaWatt turns used vegetable oil into clean heat and energy for restaurants, eliminating the dirty and costly mess of oil disposal while producing 10-25% of the electricity needed to run a small restaurant. It also produces fuel free of chemicals or fossil fuels, unlike standard biodiesel."

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Powering Restaurants WIth Deep Fried Fuel

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:44PM (#27171799)

    Soylent heat is people (leftovers)!

  • Coming soon, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nobodylocalhost (1343981) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:45PM (#27171813)

    McDonalds Energy,
    Solving home heating crisis by providing clean deep fryer vegetable oil!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by darkdaedra (1061330)
      Now if they could only harness the methane from all those cows -- then we'd be talking about McDonald's as a serious energy company.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by zaf (5944)

        Or the diners after they've eaten a big mac

      • by Thelasko (1196535)

        Now if they could only harness the methane from all those cows

        Welcome to the wonderful world of anaerobic digestion. [wikipedia.org]

      • There used to a bottled propane called Bottogas which was sold in the UK. A friend (who admittedly lived in a rural area...) was persuaded when small by his older brother that it was so called because the bottles were filled with the gas from cows' bottoms. You may find this improbable, but buildings have caught fire and burnt down through people carelessly igniting cow fart.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by McGruber (1417641)

        Now if they could only harness the methane from all those customers -- then we'd be talking about Taco Bell as a serious energy company.

        Fixed your post for you!

    • by Xtravar (725372)

      Oh dear. We're going to have another energy crisis when people stop demanding so much fried food.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think McDonald's is a part of a conspiracy...

      1) Get people fat
      2) Oil runs out
      3) Render down said fat people (ala whales) ...
      5) Profit!

    • McDonalds Energy,
      Solving home heating crisis by providing clean deep fryer vegetable oil!

      McDonalds has beef fat in it's fryers. I remember that pissed off a bunch of Hindus a while back, they were smearing feces on the face of Ronald statues in India.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Vertana (1094987)

      Solving it the American way baby! Can't shoot at it? Aw. Throwing money at it doesn't help? Aw. Wait... revolutionary idea... let's deep fry it!!! *The suits come out of the conference room giving mental pats on the back to themselves*

    • by drinkypoo (153816)


      McDonalds Energy,
      Solving home heating crisis by providing clean deep fryer vegetable oil!
      --
      Where is the "Ignorant" mod tag?

      Irony is having your sig say Where is the "Ignorant" mod tag? and not knowing that Fast Food grease is the dirtiest kind of oil. The absolute worst is Fish and Chips grease. If it gets into a non-heated filter it is all over. #2 is anyone who makes a lot of french fries; #1 in that category of badness would be McDonald's. The best oil comes from Chinese restaurants. The second-best oil comes from Mexican restaurants. Clever .sig FAIL

  • How to save energy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by amclay (1356377)
    This is it. I love this kind of idea and packaging/sale. It's clean, it seems to work, and companies are going to be attracted to that (esp. the $800/month energy savings...) The idea really isn't new, but they've cleaned it up, and that's really what counts these days.
  • by XanC (644172)

    That's my retirement grease!

  • Just one problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:50PM (#27171907)
    If everybody started using used vegetable oil for an energy source, wouldn't the cost of used vegetable oil go way up? Meaning it would be more cost effective to sell the oil and buy the electricity rather than use the oil to generate my own electricity. Trust me, if dead cats were to become a viable energy source, then even the market value of a dead cat would skyrocket. (What?!? There's currently no market for trading dead cat futures?!?)
    • by mooingyak (720677)

      Where's the problem in that?

    • by Scrameustache (459504) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @04:03PM (#27172111) Homepage Journal

      If everybody started using used vegetable oil for an energy source, wouldn't the cost of used vegetable oil go way up?

      If the restaurants all start using their used oil for this secondary purpose instead of selling it, how would the market for that now-mostly-free waste product exist?

      I've done that fryer-cleaning job. Trust me, if you factor in the man hours it takes to move and store that oil compared to having a hose you could plug in there to drain directly to your fuel tank, you'll chose the option that lets you spend your time scrubbing something instead of messing with fluctuating oil markets.

      It'd be worth it just to remove the occasional slip & fall with a couple of buckets full of oil spilling as you drop: The accident that causes itself.

      • Another thing is that not all cities or towns have local businesses that collect the waste oil - we don't here, the closest collection business is fifty miles away. Factor in the extra fuel burned and pollution created in transporting that used veg oil to collection centers in petro burning trucks, and there's even more of a fuel/environmental savings.

        This is an excellent example of how keeping your recycling as local as possible is a win-win.

        Now we need to promote local food product

      • by geekoid (135745)

        I would rather they used a good filtering method and reused most of the oil for frying.

        • Which I'm sure they do, but you can only re-filter that oil so many times before it's just not worth the effort any more.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by NemosomeN (670035)

            That would cause the formation of trans-fats, a very bad thing.

            • Really? filtering creates trans fats? When I last worked in a restaurant, most people didn't care about trans fats, so maybe they don't do it any more.

              • No it doesn't cause trans-fats, what does happen is the oil breaks down and releases the fatty acid and glycerin portions, both are bad for taste and in diesel engines. If you're making biodiesel and the oil has too much FFA (Free Fatty Acids) and your using the base catalyzed trans-esterifaction process you end up with a barrel of soap instead of fuel.

                • by NemosomeN (670035)
                  If I'm not mistaken, when oil containing cis-fats is heated repeatedly, the bonds can break and reform as trans-fats. No, of course filtering doesn't add anything.
          • by v1 (525388)

            I'd imagine then you'd be talking about the cost of filters and the economic impact of disposing of them.

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          That seems like an unlikely filter. While it's reasonably easy to filter out particulate matter, deep-fry grease breaks down from being held at high temperatures. I'm not sure you could effectively filter out the breakdown byproducts.

        • I would rather they used a good filtering method and reused most of the oil for frying.

          I bet you'll also want them to filter the dishwater and serve it to you in a glass?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The price would certainly go up since, as waste, the oil is worthless(or even costs money to dispose of); but there is no reason to expect it to rise in price above other similar energy sources. If the cost of electricity is X, why would I ever pay more than X for vegetable oil? If nobody will pay more than X for vegetable oil, then it won't be cost effective to sell vegetable oil and buy electricity with the profits.

      The only exception to that would occur because of fixed costs and economies of scale. If,
      • If the cost of electricity is X, why would I ever pay more than X for vegetable oil?

        You would pay more because you can't burn electricity in your diesel engine. Restaurants could power themselves using waste veggie oil or electricity from the grid; vehicles (at least, real vehicles as opposed to non-existent electrics and plug-in hybrids) must use diesel, and thus have more inelastic demand.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Thelasko (1196535)

      Meaning it would be more cost effective to sell the oil and buy the electricity rather than use the oil to generate my own electricity.

      I doubt it, this technology has three major advantages over selling the oil and buying the electricity.
      1) No transmission loss from the power plant to the customer.
      2) No waste heat from the power generation, as it is used to heat the restaurant's water.
      3) No fuel is burned in transporting the soon-to-be fuel.

      In theory, the markets sort out the most efficient use of resources. If this technology is truly more efficient, it will thrive.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *

        You're missing the big picture: if the restaurant sells the oil for use in diesel vehicles, that displaces the dino-diesel the vehicles would otherwise use. If you assumed that the electricity the restaurant would use otherwise was created more efficiently than mining, refining, and burning the diesel in the vehicle, then selling the waste veggie oil wins.

        Restaurants can easily be powered with electricity generated from clean and renewable resources. Vehicles still need fuel, because [synthetic] gasoline an

        • by adolf (21054)

          Right, sure, but:

          If I were a restaurant owner, I'm looking at the dollars and cents, but also the pain-in-the-ass of it all, but not some grandiose "big picture." If it's less hassle for me to burn my fryer oil for electricity than to turn the back dock into a fuel depot, then so be it.

          • If it's less hassle for me to burn my fryer oil for electricity than to turn the back dock into a fuel depot, then so be it.

            It's not, though. Setting the used oil out back to be picked up by someone, whether it's a guy with a diesel car or a disposal company, is what restaurants currently do anyway. Plus, it's a restaurant -- they get deliveries of food, new oil, etc. all the time. One more truck at the back door is no big deal. And that way they don't have to buy and maintain an extra machine.

    • by Shivetya (243324) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @05:26PM (#27173493) Homepage Journal

      http://www.newsobserver.com/news/story/599471.html [newsobserver.com]

      It was a really distressing story to see that someone who went out of his way to avoid using oil for powering his car got fined for essentially evading fuel taxes by buying vegetable oil from costo

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        When I first got my 2003 Civic Hybrid, Oregon DMV was doing a similarly stupid thing - they slapped a surcharge onto the registration fee for all hybrids, on the premise that I wouldn't be paying as much in gasoline taxes! A couple years later they saw the error of their ways; now they don't charge any more to register a hybrid. Now they just want to put a GPS in every car and tax you by mile instead of taxing you by gallon. But yes, use of alternative fuels does screw up the model they use for assessing hi
        • by arminw (717974)

          ....Now they just want to put a GPS in every car and tax you by mile...

          It seems that periodically reading the odometer and applying a formula that includes the weight of the vehicle ought to be a way to make a simple and fair tax for vehicles which use an alternate fuel. The present gasoline tax has worked well for years. Why come up with a complicated system using GPS, while all cars already have an odometer. The fuel tax is about the only tax where a taxpayer still gets value for his money.

    • I think the point is to use the vegetable oil after it is no longer useful for cooking food in, what will go up is animal feed and soap, which the used fat is used for commercially. Currently restaurants pay to have this valuable material removed.

    • by gobbo (567674)

      Funny how people have monolithic energy sources on the brain. Until we have zero-point energy wristwatches or pocket fusion generators, any futurist can expect that we will be implementing a wide variety of energy sources very soon.

      The trick is that each application of energy depends on different kinds of efficiencies and benefits, including whole-cost accounting like moving the energy source around, re-purposed materials (the main benefit in this case), health, aesthetics (e.g. property values + noise), sc

  • Right, right.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:52PM (#27171935) Journal
    "It also produces fuel free of chemicals..." As a somewhat tired internet meme would say; "O rly?"

    FFS people, virtually everything is made of "chemicals" and that isn't a problem. Sure, there are loads of quite nasty chemicals that will play hell with your chemistry and are to be avoided; but the notion that there are chemical free fuels is beyond asinine.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

      That's why I use only the top notch dark matter to make my fries.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blueg3 (192743)

      Even if you take it to mean a reasonable interpretation -- free of added or unwanted chemicals (which, as you point out, really means added or unwanted *anything*), it's still not true. Oil that's been held at high temperatures and used repeatedly to fry food is by no means free of impurities. At least some of these chemicals are hazardous or carcinogenic. Maybe the fuel overall is clean compared to the alternatives, but it's not truly clean.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Just in the same way that eating an apple from a tree fertilized with (processed) human manure is not the same as eating shit, burning biodiesel which has been esterified from used cooking oil, then washed to remove impurities is not the same thing as burning waste vegetable oil. On the other hand, there is waste from the process; it produces glycerine contaminated with biodiesel, and particulate wastes. Both can be composted (even with the biodiesel in) given care, but you can't really do that on-site at y

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          I haven't read their process carefully, but it's not biodiesel. In fact, the quote in the original post is out of context, but the comment that the fuel is "free of chemicals" is comparing it to biodiesel. They're simply filtering and burning vegetable oil.

          It is true that if you apply appropriate chemical modification, you may well be able to separate the contaminants from the resulting fuel, it's not necessarily the case. The biodiesel chemical conversion process is certainly much less rigorous than plants

  • As long as people keep eating fried foods, then there will be an abundant supply of clean fuel... So F U to those who tell us what we should and should not eat.

    Up with trans fats, down with... boiled crap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by guyminuslife (1349809)

      On the other hand, you'll have to burn more of it to drag your fat ass to the McDonald's in the only megavan that it will fit in.

  • by the_therapist (1143675) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:59PM (#27172045)

    I for one welcome smog warnings that are accompanied by the delicate scent of fries.

  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @04:07PM (#27172159) Homepage Journal

    Plastic surgery clinics could do that too. It would be better than just leaving their lipid waste in big plastic bags in bio hazard dumpsters, where anyone can just jump the fence and steal it.

    • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @04:18PM (#27172309)

      I have a friend who fuels his lipid car simply by following Star Jones around from liposuction clinic to liposuction clinic.

      He also has a methane motorcycle that is fueled entirely by Rosie O'Donnell, and a composting house heater fueled entirely by tuning the radio to Rush Limbaugh.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RockWolf (806901)

      Plastic surgery clinics could do that too. It would be better than just leaving their lipid waste in big plastic bags in bio hazard dumpsters, where anyone can just jump the fence and steal it.

      Already tried by a doctor in Beverley Hills. [theage.com.au] He used it to power two SUVs.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        As per your link, one of the SUVs he claimed to have powered doesn't come in a diesel model. It's entirely possible, and in fact Tyson Chicken is building (has built?) a pilot plant in Germany to make animal-based biodiesel. Tyson chicken is the world's largest producer of waste chicken fat.

  • It also produces fuel free of chemicals or fossil fuels, unlike standard biodiesel.

    How does that work? Maybe they meant "hazardous chemicals" or something.

    • It's a little known fact that used cooking oil is so evil that it dissolves all molecular bonds, leaving only individual atoms. That's why fast food is so bad for your heart.
  • What the hell does that mean, anyway? People throw that phrase around, and I guess you have an idea of what they are getting at, but as a claim, isn't it problematic?
  • Aren't they burning a hydrocarbon? How does this qualify as clean?
    • Re:Clean? (Score:4, Informative)

      by SydShamino (547793) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @04:59PM (#27173019)

      When was that carbon last in the atmosphere? If the answer is "within the past two years" then it doesn't make things worse.

      If the answer is "fifty-seven million years ago" then there may be a problem.

      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        When was that carbon last in the atmosphere? If the answer is "within the past two years" then it doesn't make things worse.

        If the answer is "fifty-seven million years ago" then there may be a problem.

        Carbon neutral and clean are not the same thing.

      • by mortonda (5175)

        It doesn't matter how old the carbon is. If we spew more carbon than is scrubbed, it's imbalanced. If you could push a magic button and make all carbon emissions based on carbon that was in the air in "the past two years", we quickly run out of fuel.

    • Biodiesel has reduced emissions [biodiesel.org] (warning: PDF) compared to dino-diesel for every category of pollutant except NOx (oxides of nitrogen).

      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        Biodiesel has reduced emissions [biodiesel.org] (warning: PDF) compared to dino-diesel for every category of pollutant except NOx (oxides of nitrogen).

        So... cleaner than the current standard. But certainly not cleaner than, say, hydro-electricity.

        Folks... if you're burning a hydrocarbon, no matter where you get it from it ain't clean unless you manage to sequester ALL THE EMISSIONS. (Let me know when you pull that off.)

        Disclosure: I drive a standard vehicle and heat with natural gas. I just get tired of people repeating tired old nonsense. Burning hydro-carbons is NOT CLEAN.

        • by arminw (717974)

          ....Burning hydro-carbons is NOT CLEAN....

          So what? People have been burning wood in their campfires, fireplaces and wood stoves for ages. Last time I looked, wood is essentially a hydrocarbon. All the carbon containing fuel, whether from the forest or from some place underground, is essentially stored solar energy. In the case of wood it was stored a relatively short time ago, while with the other so-called fossil fuels the storage took place a very long time ago. At some point, near the beginning, all carb

        • So... cleaner than the current standard. But certainly not cleaner than, say, hydro-electricity.

          Good luck running a vehicle with hydroelectricity! Last I checked, dams don't move...

          Folks... if you're burning a hydrocarbon, no matter where you get it from it ain't clean unless you manage to sequester ALL THE EMISSIONS. (Let me know when you pull that off.)

          To be blunt, that's a stupid way of looking at it, for several reasons.

          First, there are two general categories of emissions: short-term and long-term. Shor

  • I still think it cleaner, safer and more responsible to leave bio-fuels to the pro - the experienced commercial operator.

    The restaurant is a fire waiting to happen.

    They survive on very thin margins. They hire kids for jobs like this. They don't pay them much. They don't train them well.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      If they can stand and use a deep fryer, then that can plug a hose from the fryer to the automated system.
       

  • Dupe....of idle.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by cstdenis (1118589) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @05:08PM (#27173197)

    Not only is this a dupe, like so many others on /., but it's a dupe of an article considered so stupid, it was put on idle: http://idle.slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&id=3713481 [slashdot.org]

  • by tsa (15680)

    McDonalds powers their trucks with the old oil for the fries here in NL. I calculated that you don't have to use any extra diesel to get the truck to all the McDonalds's here to pick up their trash. Very cool concept.

  • Why not start with the heating of the fat itself? Make a frying pan that cleans itself and uses the leftover/bad oil to heat the new/filtered oil. One machine that powers itself. You can of course use some of the energy for the electronics/pumps and maybe even power a few other devices. Or would this not be technical feasible? I like self sufficient devices.

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