Friday, September 22, 2006

Next Up in Red Hook: Biodiesel Fuel Production?

Oh, Red Hook. First it was trash transfer stations and sewage treatment plants. Then, it was Ikea. Now, it's, well, fuel production. Specifically, "the city's first large-scale manufacturing facility for biodiesel," in the words of Ariella Cohen in the new edition of the Brooklyn Papers hitting stoops and distribution points all over Brooklyn. Biodiesel is a clean-burning gasoline substitute produced with vegetable oils and animal fats.

The new plant is proposed for a 15,000 square foot site on Columbia Street near Halleck, within shouting distance of the Red Hook ballfields, which should provide a sense of the controversy the proposal could generate in the neighborhood.

The business involved, Tri-State Biodiesel, has already applied for a $4 million grant to build a plant and "tank farm," Ms. Cohen reports, so that used cooking oil from restaurants could be "collected and mixed with methanol and some petroleum" to create a diesel fuel. There would also be a filling station for trucks and buses.

The upside: the fuel is definitely green, producing 78 percent less carbon-dioxide emissions than standard diesel. The downside depends, one would suppose, on collateral damage in terms of the odor of millions of gallons of putrid cooking oil, other pollution and whether you happen to play ball across the street.

Apparently, a 2004 study done by Cornell estimated that more than a million gallons of waste oil could be collected for reuse from Brooklyn kitchens alone.

Ms. Cohen writes:

Yet some in Red Hook worry that the clean oil may be still too dirty for the popular baseball diamond — home to the Mexican Baseball League of New York— and public park that sit just west of the industrial park’s exhaust-colored concrete walls. The new facility would replace a storage lot now occupied by mounds of smoke-free road salt.

“We are talking about a site that is immediately adjacent to one of the city’s most-popular recreational areas,” said John McGettrick, Red Hook Civic Association President. “We have to find out more.”

Experts agree that the conversion of cooking oil into fuel does create a small amount of emissions. But even environmental watchdogs note that the emissions are minor compared to conventional petroleum production.

You can read the story in its entirety here. Gowanus Lounge is putting our money on a little bit of a mano-a-mano between some in the nabe and the city on this baby.


Anonymous Brent Baker said...

HI There,

Thanks for the interest in Brooklyn's first biodiesel plant. I just wanted to clarify a few points.

1) We are financing in part with municipal bonds, not a grant. We wish it was a grant but It’s more like a tax-exempt loan.

2) We will not be handling any petroleum at the site. We are manufacturing pure, 100% biodiesel which can be used straight or mixed with petro-diesel, but we will NOT be doing any blending at our site.

3) There is NO filling station at the site. It is a manufacturing facility only with very minimal truck traffic. We will sell our fuel in bulk to existing service stations.

4) There will be no odor or noxious fumes from our facility. It is all closed tank processing with no smokestack. We have visited several similar facilities around the country and can confirm they are virtually odorless

To learn more or contact us please visit

Brent Baker
CEO Tri-State Biodiesel

11:29 AM  

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