Biodiesel firm rises from recycler's ashes

By Jerry W. Kram | November 13, 2008
Zurix Biodiesel Inc. in Thomaston, Ga., is rising from the ashes of disaster. The company is owned by Richard Harville, who owned a grease recycling business that suffered a devastating fire in September. Zurix has received a $500,000 renewable energy grant from the USDA to start producing biodiesel instead.

Harville is in the process of cleaning up the site of the now-defunct Agri-Cycle LLC business, removing approximately 10 million gallons of water and grease. The grant was part of a $220.9 million loan and grant program within the USDA's Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program. Zurix Biodiesel will collect approximately 1 million gallons of grease that will be used to produce biodiesel. Harville hasn't disclosed the location of the biodiesel plant yet, citing ongoing negotiations with the community, but he affirmed it won't be in Jackson County, where Agri-Cycle was located.

Agri-Cycle collected waste grease and processed it in large detention ponds. The process residue was sprayed on agricultural land. Residents of the community complained of odor problems from the plant soon after it opened in 2005. In September 2007, the Georgia Environmental Protection Department cited Agri-Cycle's operation for alleged water quality violations and ordered Harville to shut down the plant. The Jackson County Superior Court also issued an injunction requiring the plant to be shut down unless it could prove it wasn't a threat to public health. In October 2007, one of the detention ponds containing waste grease and water caught fire, and burned for more than 24 hours before the blaze was extinguished by firefighters. The company appealed the department and county court rulings to the Georgia Supreme Court, but lost those appeals. As part of an out-of-court settlement between Harville and Jackson County, Harville agreed not to reopen Agri-Cycle or to process any kind of waste in Jackson County again. However, he can reopen the site as an agricultural business.

The $2 million biodiesel operation will obtain yellow grease from restaurants and chicken fat from poultry processing operations to be used as feedstocks. The facility will also be able to convert trap grease into biodiesel. Harville said the plant will have a competitive advantage due to its ability to convert poor-quality feedstocks. It will employ 20 to 30 people and create additional jobs in support industries. It has been under development for two years, according to Harville.
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