Treatment plant ready to turn grease into greenbacks

By Matthew Bernat | Feb 13, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Water Pollution Control Facility Director Guy Campinha looks in on a batch of grease being prepared for sale.

After four years, $400,000 and a few months of “cooking” lessons, a milestone in the Water Pollution Control Facility’s effort to take hard-to-treat grease and turn it into cash is approaching.

The new equipment responsible for that is “Greasezilla.” Consisting of two, 10,000-gallon tanks and a sophisticated control panel, the setup is located inside a small warehouse at 7 Tony’s Lane. The treatment plant’s Greasezilla is the only one of its kind in southern New England.

West Virginia-based Downey Ridge Environmental Company sells and manufactures Greasezilla, a brown-grease separation system that takes used grease (mostly from restaurants) and refines it into a high-grade biofuel, which is then resold.

Water Pollution Control Facility Director Guy Campinha says the first 4,200-gallon batch of refined grease made in Wareham is almost ready to be sold. He is shopping around now to get the best price.

Campinha said he’s aware there was some doubt regarding the project when it was first announced, but he thanked residents for their patience and for approving a $400,000 agenda item at the April 2014 Town Meeting. Voters OK’d a transfer of the money from the facility’s $2.7 million “retained earnings” fund.

“People have been wondering – I’ve heard the rumors, the rumbles – that it’s a waste of money,” said Campinha. “I understand because the results weren’t immediate, but it takes time. We’ve come a long ways.”

Greasezilla was turned on this past August, four years after Campinha first started his research. From then until now Campinha said staff have undergone a lengthy trial-and-error process as they learn how to “cook” the grease. Temperature control is important to take the refuse and turn it into a commodity.

According to Campinha, Greasezilla serves a few different purposes, including removing pipe-clogging grease from the sewer system. It generates money, too.

So far, Campinha has deals with businesses across southern New England who ship waste grease to Wareham. Customers include Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino, and Campinha is in talks to start accepting grease from businesses on Martha’s Vineyard.

Businesses pay the pollution control facility 14 cents per gallon to treat the grease. Once refined, the grease is sold to the highest bidder. When Campinha first started researching Greasezilla, the refined oil was selling for $1.50 per gallon. Today, it’s down to 16 cents per gallon.

“Right now, the market is low and that’s OK because the goal wasn’t just to sell the oil,” said Campinha. “We’re paid to bring it in…There’s a lot of residual benefits in addition to making money.”

The refining process goes like this: trucks bring the grease to the facility where it’s pumped into the first tank and heated; solids, such as trash, are skimmed away and sent to an incinerator; the grease is then sent to a second tank where it is refined again.

After the second treatment, grease is loaded into pumper trucks where it is delivered to companies who use it for bio-fuel or other industrial applications, such as lubricants.

With Greasezilla online and ready to work, Campinha has plans to educate Wareham restaurant owners about properly disposing of grease. Per state law, restaurant grease traps must be pumped out quarterly. Campinha said owners have been lax, but he’s starting a new effort to make them aware of the law and comply.

“Not only does [grease] clog the lines, it creates backups in the sewer and we have to jet wash them more. It creates problems in the pump stations…and it stinks to high heaven,” said Campinha. “There’s a lot of problems with grease.”

Comments (14)
Posted by: Doctor Deekas | Feb 13, 2017 14:01

Mr. Campinha, of course the reason to have the Greasezilla was to make money. Why would ratepayers expend $400K to invest in this operation if they weren't sold a bill of goods that they would make their money back in doing so? Our treatment facility in Wareham is not responsible to clean up Mohegan Sun's grease, it was always about Wareham! So yes, when you were exploring and researching that we could get $1.50 a gallon, it made it more palatable to tell ratepayers at Town Meeting to vote for it. Guess, we were all wrong. Here we voters go like Charlie Brown running up to the football again!

Posted by: bob | Feb 13, 2017 16:05

As Doc D,says, The voters got grease again on someone pet project...wasn'  t   the plant  built to serve the taxpayers people of this town and to serve the growth of our community and not the growth and business of  the casinos or other towns and cities...

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Feb 14, 2017 08:18

$1260 per batch profit - energy cost - labor - $400,000 = Wareham taxpayers just got greased again.

Posted by: deanmartin | Feb 14, 2017 11:11

This was a boondoggle from Day One. There are private companies such as Newport Biodiesel that provide this service and actually pay to pick up grease. Any research into this market would have uncovered the foolishness of this investment.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Feb 14, 2017 14:30

I have been trying to do my part by pouring as much grease into the drain as I can. Doing the wheel bearings on my boat trailer so that should help out.

Posted by: brazz | Feb 14, 2017 16:11

"was selling for $1.50 per gallon. Today, it’s down to 16 cents per gallon.

That's a 89.3333333% drop in price. Seems like a lot of work with little to show for.

Posted by: Society for Suppression of Noise | Feb 14, 2017 20:08

Spherebreaker, your shining example as a good citizen is inspiring.  If I drop my trailer off in your driveway this weekend, you could contribute even more!

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Feb 15, 2017 08:03

Thanks Noise! Coming from you means a lot.  Sure drop it off, just got my driveway on the town maintained list so its been plowed.


Posted by: Rosebud | Feb 15, 2017 14:34

Oil is a commodity, and as such the price goes up and down.   (At least we have an employee who's interested in saving us money instead of the usual spend-and-tax politicians.)

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Feb 15, 2017 14:52

Is Wareham in good enough financial shape to spend $400000 so we can play the commodities market ? No we are not, I thought this was a foolish idea when it was brought forward and this story confirms my fears.

Posted by: Society for Suppression of Noise | Feb 15, 2017 17:06

What is the refined product called?  I'm having a heckuva time researching price history.

Posted by: totellthetruth | Feb 15, 2017 19:23

Its called Biodiesel . Its just like any other commodity. When Diesel was $4.00 gal. Biodiesel was about $3.00 People were driving to Rhode Island to the only Biodiesel station around to save a buck a gallon.Now that diesel is flirting with $2.50 gal. the demand for biodiesel is not there anymore- hence the price drop.

I am not an expert on Biodiesel, but I believe it has to be blended to a certain ratio with regular diesel.

Posted by: Beaver Dam | Feb 15, 2017 21:48

Just 2,5 million gallons to go before see break even. That does not include labor or energy costs which must be huge. Your taxpayer dollars at work.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Feb 16, 2017 00:05

I'm not saying I agree or disagree with Greasezilla, but after all those comments, we need some positive thoughts about this endeavor.  At this point in the game, there are only two options:  Scrap it or make the best of it.  Nobody's going to scrap it so they might as well go for it.  Lets hope they get good at it and things work out.

If you wish to comment, please login.