No place for Summit County grease?
April 6, 2009
SUMMIT COUNTY ” Dara Lor’s vision of converting the county’s old restaurant grease into fuel for cars and trucks may hit the skids for lack of space.
Lor said that, to move forward, he needs to find a facility to expand and continue the operation. He’s been sharing space with Strategic Fence in Breckenridge since last summer. But with more supply than he anticipated, he’s running out of room.
“I have to be out of here at the end of the month. Their busy season is coming around,” Lor said, expressing frustration with his search for a suitable space.
Lor essentially purifies the old cooking grease by spinning it in a centrifuge and running it through filters to produce straight vegetable oil. Diesel engines can run on the fuel with a retrofit that includes a supplementary fuel-heating system.
His vision for the business is to eventually collect most of the old grease from the county and convert it for local use.
Lor said he needs less than 1,000 square feet of commercially zoned space, but would like to find a property that would enable him to grow the business. Along with individual restaurants in Summit County, Lor has contracted with Vail Resorts to collect old cooking oil from their food-service operations.
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But when the economy spiraled downward and fuel prices dropped, Lor said interest in his operation waned.
Several months ago, Lor felt he had at least a partial commitment from Summit County to cooperate on finding a location for the operation. But now he’s running out of time.
“They said we can’t give you space for free, but said that they might work with me if I could help offset the energy cost of using a building or something,” Lor said. “All I need are some meager accommodations.
“We never shook hands or had anything in writing, but people were saying, ‘you just need to get this thing going.’ It seems like everyone just forgot about me, with all this cheap fuel,” he said. “I’m turning down accounts because I don’t have any room.”
Lor has also been in discussion with the High Country Conservation Center.
“He would like to have the support of local governments,” said the center’s John Kinstad. “It’s a great idea, but it needs more forming and insight,” Kinstad said. “We’ve worked with him to try and help him refine his ideas.”
Kinstad said the county may be a bit gun shy about working with Lor based on recent experience with other private businesses that have operated on county land.
Assistant county manager Thad Noll agreed with Kinstad’s assessment and said the county only has limited space at the landfill. The grease recycling operation may not be the best fit.
Lor wanted to use a vacant garage at the landfill and the county decided against that use, Noll said. The county is willing to help Lor, potentially by waving fees in case of a rezoning application, Noll said.
Lor thinks the grease-cycling business is a perfect area for the county to put its green foot forward.
Several local supporters have started an online petition to garner public support for Lor’s operation. They plan to write a letter to the county commissioners and to get a hearing in front of the board in the next few weeks.
“He’s put so much his own time, energy and money into this,” said Robyn Macey.
Lor estimates he could produce several thousand gallons of veggie oil fuel each month if he can get widespread participation from the restaurant community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at email@example.com.