From grease to gas: Partnership between restaurants, park district benefits all

CHICAGO -- From grease to gas: Partnership between restaurants, park district benefits all.

Old cooking oil from some of your favorite fast food restaurants in Chicago is being reused to help fuel Chicago Park District vehicles.

Restaurants like Portillo’s, Arby’s and Wendy’s  send off their old oil and it’s treated to become biodiesel.

The park district uses that to fuel its vehicle saving about $40,000 dollars a year on gasoline.  The program started in 2012.

It all happens thanks to a unique partnership and an interesting chemical process.

The restaurants will pump the old oil into a tank and it’s picked up by a company called Darling Ingredients.

They remove food particles and water from the oil and then it is treated by renewable energy group who has facilities in Danville and Seneca.

Every gallon of the “yellow grease” they get here becomes one gallon of biodiesel.  It’s mixed with methanol and lye, heated up and then the biodiesel separates and comes to the top.

The 100% biodiesel fuel is then dropped off to the Chicago Park District’s underground tank at 39th and Lakeshore Drive.

Currently, it’s mixed into a 50% biodiesel – 50% standard diesel blend at the pump.

Nearly 60 vehicles in the park districts fleet use the blend.

Chicago Area Clean Cities Coalition hopes other fleets see the park district’s success and also choose to go green.