California tribe to make biodiesel from waste oil

By Anna Austin
Posted July 9, 2009, at 11:33 a.m. CST

The Pauma Band of Mission Indians in Pauma Valley, Calif., will soon utilize waste cooking oil to produce biodiesel for use within the tribal community.

Pacific Natural Energy is providing the federally recognized tribe with a modular "Bio-box" biodiesel unit, to process approximately 1 MMgy of biodiesel. PNE President Eric McCloud said the company has been working with the tribe, who live just outside of San Diego, Calif., for more than a year, to develop a four-phase project plan. "We're currently in the first stage, which is setting up the oil collection systems," McCloud said. "We're placing collection bins and setting up their vacuum truck, waste oil processing and filtration [systems]."

McCloud said the next stages involve setting up the reactor, system optimization and beta testing.

At its maximum, the PNE 50 SS Bio-box system can generate more than 2 MMgy of biodiesel. The company also provides smaller and larger units for users intending to produce from 100,000 gallons per year up to 5 MMgy. System footprints range from 2,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet, which includes space for truck access, with tank capacities of 650 to 2,600 gallons.

Tribal members will be able to purchase the biodiesel at a discount, McCloud said. The tribe also plans to power its casino tour bus fleet with the fuel, absorbing what they need, after which they will market to local customers.

Capital costs for the PNE 50 SS system are approximately 30 to 50 cents per gallon, or a total cost of $250,000 to $400,000. "They are reasonable as far as a pay back period goes," McCloud said. Pay back may be really quick assuming enough oil is collected, he added.

"It's a great business model for tribal lands because of incentives that they have and, as long as it's approved by the tribe, by being a federally recognized tribe they don't have to pay a state road tax," McCloud said. "I think this could open up a whole new market."

According to McCloud, project completion is expected by the end of the summer, and the system should be operational by September or October.