published Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Fat may fuel bloodmobiles


by Emily Bregel
Audio clip

Will Wilson

As part of an effort to reduce its impact on the environment, Blood Assurance is fueling one of its buses with a renewable biofuel made from chicken fat.

Blood Assurance, the region's blood bank, has been working with local biofuel company TrimChick for the past six months to test the fuel in one of its buses, said area manager Jason Hodges.

If all goes well with a maintenance check on the bus, scheduled later this week, the blood bank will expand the fuel change to the rest of its eight-bus fleet, Mr. Hodges said. Each bus uses 300 gallons of diesel fuel every month, he said.

The reduced emissions from biofuel also will improve the air quality around donors using the buses to give blood, said Bonnie Phillips of Blood Assurance.

TrimChick, run by father and son Dave and Will Wilson, is a subsidiary of Southeastern Sales, which has operated in Chattanooga for 35 years. Southeastern Sales works with local poultry processors such as Pilgrim's Pride to re-use chicken fat, necks and other cheaper parts of the bird for pet food and filler in products such as hot dogs.

TrimChick now is using the fat to mix an eco-friendly biodiesel fuel, Will Wilson said. Eventually TrimChick chicken -- chicken from which the fat has been taken for biofuel -- should be on the shelves as a retail item, he said.

In addition to ethanol, biodiesel is an increasingly common biofuel, usually mixed from soybean oil instead of animal fat, said Joe Bozell, a professor in the University of Tennessee Forest Products Center. Biodiesel has low sulfur emissions and improves lubricity in vehicles, he said.

TrimChick's easy access to chicken products might give it a leg up in the challenging business of biodiesel fuel production, Mr. Bozell said.

Many biodiesel companies struggle because "the production costs of biodiesel in general are higher than regular diesel," he said. "If the chicken fat is really cheap, maybe they're got a little bit of an advantage cost-wise."

TrimChick also is working with local restaurants to help defray the cost of biofuel for its customers. Biofuel costs about $1 per gallon more than petroleum-based diesel fuel, Mr. Wilson said.

Local restaurants Taco Mamacita, Champy's Famous Fried Chicken and Formosa have agreed to contribute 1 cent for every pound of chicken sold at their restaurants to help offset the extra cost of the fuel, Mr. Wilson said. If more restaurants sign up, more biodiesel use can be funded, Mr. Wilson said.

"We're trying to make it cost-effective," he said. "We're not trying to rely on government subsidies to fund private projects. We think there's enough awareness in Chattanooga ... to support this campaign."

ON THE WEB

Find out more at trimchick.com

Seth Champion, owner and operator of Champy's, said he'd been searching for an avenue to support green initiatives, and TrimChick was a good fit.

"I believe in their company," he said. "We definitely need to look for alternative, cleaner energy."

The restaurant sells more than 2,500 pounds of chicken in a week, so that's $100 a month that will go toward the cause, he said.

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Energy grants sprinkled around region

Article: New ethanol refinery uses non-edible switch grass

Article: Confluence Solar announces $200M plant in Tennessee

about Emily Bregel...

Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...

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