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Whitney Pipkin, writes about food, agriculture and the environment. She lives in Alexandria, VA, and is a fellow of the Institute for Journalists of Natural resources and blogs at thinkabouteat.com.

Omega Protein turning wasted oils into fuel

  • June 13, 2014
Renewable Diesel Oil (RDO) being delivered to Omega Protein's facility in Reedville, Va.  (Provided by Omega Protein)

Through a partnership with an Arizona-based energy company, Omega Protein, Inc., has been able to reduce its fossil fuel consumption by 80 percent at its Reedville, Va., facility, the company said.

Omega operates the largest commercial fishing fleet on the Atlantic Coast out of Reedville, where fleets have been transitioning from petroleum oil to a lower-cost renewable fuel derived from everyday oils found in wastewater, according to a press release.

Since 2012, Omega has replaced 3 million gallons of residual oil with renewable fuel from RDX Technologies, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., which has reduced the facility’s sulfur emissions by 80 percent and lowered its greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent.

“By transitioning away from fossil fuels, we’ve made breakthroughs in our ability to operate even more sustainably, all while reducing costs and improving efficiency,” said Monty Deihl, Omega’s senior director of operations.

The renewable fuels consist primarily of soy, canola and similar vegetable oils that are captured from wastewater streams across the country and refined into renewable diesel oil by RDX. Omega is working with the company to eventually source renewable oils for the Reedville facility from within the Commonwealth.

An estimated 6 billion gallons of these oils are dumped into sewage systems and landfills each year in the United States, and many companies pay disposal fees to get rid of them, or cities deal with them through costly water treatment.

Bringing the technology to Virginia to convert those waste streams into fuel “saves unneeded energy and expenses for Virginia businesses and communities,” the press release states.

Dennis M. Danzik, CEO of RDX Technologies, says restaurants, universities, hospitals and high-rise buildings are all possible sources of these ingredients for fuel: “They are all oil wells to us.”

Omega uses the renewable diesel oils from animal fats in its boilers to process menhaden, which Omega’s crews harvest to produce fish oil and fishmeal products.

Using renewable fuels is one of several eco-friendly initiatives the company has undertaken in recent years, spokesman Ben Landry said.

Omega also has equipped two fishing vessels with engines that burn less fuel and reduce emissions, and the company launched a program last year that reuses the “bail water” that moves fish from the boats to the plant, which eliminates the need to discharge that waste into the water.

Omega also is the only plant in North America to install airless dryers that incinerate non-condensable gases. Many of these initiatives have helped save the company money while meeting environmental goals, Landry said.

For more information about Omega’s sustainability initiatives, visit the company’s website.

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About Whitney Pipkin
Whitney Pipkin, writes about food, agriculture and the environment. She lives in Alexandria, VA, and is a fellow of the Institute for Journalists of Natural resources and blogs at thinkabouteat.com.
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