Housing Complex

Grease Plant Coming Soon to Somewhere in D.C.

Not yet a fueling station, but close. (Lydia DePillis)

The more restaurants D.C. gets, the more grease they generate. Starting next year, it'll all be recyclable, when the District's first biodiesel plant will start turning it into clean-burning fuel for cars, generators, and even heating your house.

That's if Wendell Jenkins' plan works out, at least. The president of D.C. Biofuels has just about nailed down a 2-acre location in an industrial area of the District—which he'll announce in the next month or so—and figures that once the plant is built, he can start cranking out pure biodiesel at the rate of five million gallons a year. Getting the grease shouldn't be a problem: As WAMU reported a couple weeks ago, Jenkins has already inked a deal with the Neighborhood Restaurant Group for their fryer excess, and is seeking more. It's a multi-million dollar project, and the company is doing it without D.C. subsidies or tax breaks; a federal tax incentive may or may not make it through upcoming debt negotiations.

Having a biodiesel plant in the city is actually kind of a big deal, given that the nearest facility is about 150 miles away, and trucking the stuff in becomes an expensive proposition (not to mention self-defeating, from an environmental point of view). The fuel tends to be a little more expensive than regular gasoline, but with gas prices as high as they are, the premium needn't be prohibitive.

"Our model is built on using economies of scale of the supply chain," Jenkins says. "Most of your waste is right here, and most of your users are here."

Jenkins knows he might get some pushback when the location is revealed, but wants to reassure future neighbors that the plant is a "closed loop system"—similar to a pilot project in San Francisco—that shouldn't produce noticeable noise or smells. He's also committed to hiring District residents for the 50 or so jobs that he expects the plant will create.

If you want to question Jenkins in person, head on over to the D.C. Environmental Network's brown bag lunch tomorrow at 1100 15th Street NW.

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