Fryer to Fuel: Reusing Oil Drives Pgh Enterprise

  • Sara Innamorato pours used oil into a larger drum for pickup. Photo: J.S. Jordan

  • Cubes of various oils wait for the next step in the ReFuel process. Photo: J.S.Jordan

  • Labeled plant oils that have been converted into biodiesel. Straight biodiesel is on the far right. Photo: J.S.Jordan

Fine local organic asparagus and other sustainably grown foods are the kind of sexy poster child of environmental topics. But what about the back end of food production--specifically the waste oil left behind from our love for fried foods? A Pittsburgh enterprise is collecting oil from restaurants and individuals for reuse as diesel fuel. GTECH's (Growth Through Energy & Community Health) ReFuel truck will be part of The Allegheny Front's Feb. 23 Green Gathering.

"We're trying to create a fuel economy that's Pittsburgh-based," said GTECH's Sara Innamorato. "So you have restaurants producing oil, and then we collect it, it gets processed locally and fuels local vehicles instead of having to mine for oil, then send it off to be refined, then have the refined oil sent back to various outlets. We make the cycle much shorter." 

The ReFuel program started in 2010 and it's collected 10,000 gallons since.

After the oil is collected by ReFuel, Braddock-based Fossil Free Fuel picks up the oil, filters and cleans it for use as diesel fuel. 

Innamorato admits there's not a huge profit margin in this socially minded enterprise, so it runs in part on grants and reaches out to events and smaller restaurants that might not be able to otherwise reuse their oil. 

With Lenten season fish fries upon us, area churches will offer their oil to GTECH, as you can hear in this Allegheny Front story