2006-11-30 / News

McQuade's puts new meaning in 'greengrocer'

By Sam Bari

Maurice Browning in McQuade's new grease-powered vehicle. Maurice Browning in McQuade's new grease-powered vehicle. Driving a 2006 Jeep Liberty that runs primarily on reclaimed French fry oil is not manager Maurice Browning's first step to steering McQuade's Marketplace down the path to green, but it certainly is the biggest.

Browning purchased a dieselpowered Jeep for Mcquade's a few months ago and immediately had a reclaimed vegetable oil fuel kit installed from Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems. Those who are interested can find them on the Internet at www.greasecar.com. McQuade's employees lovingly nicknamed the Jeep the French-fry car because it's primary source of fuel is reclaimed oil from cooking French-fries.

"Using reclaimed cooking oil for fuel saves us a tremendous amount of money," said Browning, "because it is free. We pay hundreds of dollars to properly dispose of used cooking oil and fat cut from meat at our three stores. Now we burn the used oil as fuel instead of discarding it, so we get it for free and save an additional few hundred dollars in disposal fees."

Diesel fuel is used to start the car and warm up the oil because it solidifies somewhere around 52 degrees. Once the oil is warm and flowing smoothly, he switches from diesel fuel to the free reclaimed fryolator oil, Browning explained. The car averages around 24 miles per gallon on diesel, and about the same on the reclaimed cooking oil with no noticeable change in performance. However, a tank of diesel fuel now lasts four times as long, Browning said. That translates to 100 miles per gallon in actual fuel costs. The Jeep averages 2,000 miles per tank of diesel fuel - a dramatic reduction of 80 percent in operating costs.

The system does, however, have a few disadvantages, Browning pointed out. It isn't practical for those who drive just a couple of miles to work and back because it takes that long for the cooking oil to heat to a usable temperature. Coolant water warms up and circulates through the vegetable oil tank to heat it to the proper consistency. In the winter, this process takes longer. Also, heated or not, the car doesn't like to start on vegetable oil. It prefers to operate a warm running engine. In addition, the fuel line must be purged of oil before turning it off. This requires switching back to diesel fuel a mile or so before shutting down the engine so it can be restarted with diesel fuel.

Browning said that the system costs about $4,000 to install. Greasecar makes kits of different sizes. They never made one for a Jeep Liberty before, so the tank had to be custom fitted. In addition to buying and installing the kit, a heated 50- gallon drum is required so the reclaimed oil can be strained through a one micron filter, similar to a coffee filter, before being pumped into the car. The cooking oil is actually strained twice, once through a sieve as it goes into the heated drum, and again from the heated drum to the fuel tank.

The diesel exhaust fumes are replaced by the appetizing aroma of cooking French-fries. "If you don't mind driving down the street smelling like a French-fry, it's a good thing," Browning said. "I think it's an improvement over diesel exhaust," he added.

McQuade's has always made an effort to be energy-efficient in all of their stores, Browning said. The Mystic, Conn., store just changed all of the lighting fixtures to take F- 5 florescent bulbs. The local power company subsidized the change because the F-5 system is much more energy efficient than quartz-halogen. They also installed a 600-kilowatt generator that starts automatically in case of a brownout. For this, they get a rebate on their light bill and Connecticut Light and Power helps pay for the generator.

All stores have computer controlled anti-sweat heaters on the freezer doors. They also use energy efficient circulating fans that are subsidized by the power company. Their Westerly store is considering remodeling with new ethylene glycol liquid refrigerant for their refrigerators because it will eliminate the chance of gas leaks into the atmosphere. From the Frenchfry car to the freezers, McQuade's Marketplace takes going green very seriously.

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