A Chandler family will be the first retailer of biodiesel fuel in Arizona when it opens a service station pump in about three weeks that is expected to offer lower-priced fuel to Valley motorists, truckers and heavy equipment operators.
AZ BioDiesel, a Chandler rcompany that converts restaurant grease into biodiesel, will open a single pump by June 2 at its conversion plant, 4339 E. University Drive, on the Tempe-Phoenix border, said Dan Rees, who co-owns the business with his sons, Richie, 26 and Christopher, 24.
Rees, who also owns Millennium Laser Supply in Chandler, a print cartridge recycler, said he expects to initially charge 75 cents to $1 less for a gallon of diesel fuel. The average price for regular diesel is $4.43 in the East Valley and $4.45 statewide, according to AAA Arizona.
"After we cover some of our initial expenses, we'll probably drop the price to more than a dollar under what is being charged at service stations," Rees said.
AZ BioDiesel began collecting waste grease from more than 450 restaurants in the Valley and Tucson six months ago.
More than a dozen other companies in the state also collect waste grease from restaurants, but they convert the grease into biodiesel fuel to sell to larger fuel suppliers.
Only one other company based in California collects waste grease in Arizona and sells biodiesel fuel to motorists - but only to drivers in California, Rees said.
"We're the first to sell it directly to motorists in the Valley and Arizona," Rees said.
He said selling the converted fuel to Valley school districts for use in buses will be a company priority, but individual motorists driving diesel-powered trucks, vans and cars will also be served.
Restaurants are required under state law to collect grease in containers to keep it from flowing into their sewer systems. There are more than 20,000 restaurants in the Greater Phoenix and Tucson areas that collect an estimated average of 13 million gallons of grease, said Christopher Rees.
He said AZ BioDiesel is partnering with the Arizona Green Restaurant Organization to remove stored waste grease from restaurants that belong to the group. His company provides 60- and 250-gallon containers to each restaurant that are picked up monthly. The pickup service is free.
"We bring the grease to our converter plant and turn it into biodiesel fuel," Christopher Rees said.
He said the company eventually expects to collect waste grease from more than 1,000 restaurants and produce about 1 million gallons of biodiesel fuel a year. If successful, the end result would be the removal of 1,000 diesel-powered vehicles from the highways and the elimination of 16 million pounds of carbon dioxide from the Valley's air.
AZ BioDiesel will sell its biodiesel fuel from a single pump outside its 3,500-square-foot office and conversion plant, which is located in a commercial district between Tempe and Phoenix.
Motorists can pull up to the self-serve pump, fill their tanks and pay with either cash or a credit card, Christopher Rees said. Any vehicle powered by diesel fuel can use biodiesel fuel.
The company actually began three years ago when Richie Rees began converting waste grease into biodiesel fuel in his Chandler garage, and using the fuel for his diesel-powered SUV. His father later used the fuel for his company's service delivery trucks, and AZ BioDiesel was born.
One of the company's grease suppliers, Z'Tejas Restaurants, recently added another collection site at its Chandler location, 7221 W. Ray Road.
"Our partnership with AZ BioDiesel allows us to do our part to help the local environment and Arizona landscape stay clean," said Deborah Topcik, marketing director.