Bahamas Waste has completed an upgrade to its biodiesel processing facility and expects a turnaround on its investment by the fourth quarter of this year.
During a tour of the site, Guardian Business saw first-hand arguably the most innovative "green" projects being spearheaded by the BISX-listed company. New tanks and piping have already boosted the facility's efficiency and capacity, according to the project coordinator, and Bahamas Waste should start to see the benefits in the next few months. In the end, the firm aims to save hundreds of thousands and release itself from a costly dependence on fossil fuels.
"I would estimate we spend $500,000 per year on fuel. If we can cut that in half, that's huge," said Michael King, biodiesel coordinator. "It will depend on the cost of cooking oil we collect, it depends on the efficiency we achieve, and getting a better quality of oil. It will do a lot for cost savings, not to mention bragging rights for being the first to do this." King, who worked at the Bacardi plant for nearly two decades distilling rum, is now one of the brains behind the program.
Bahamas Waste has invested more than $1 million in biodiesel, hired a staff of three, and most recently spent a further $30,000 on upgraded equipment. Hopping in a Volkswagen, King pointed to the biodiesel logos covering the vehicle as if it were a Formula 1 racing car. It's now one of three company vehicles at the plant powered by biodiesel, he said, not to mention a handful of forklifts and 30 large collection trucks now operating on a 50 percent blend of the refined cooking oil. Bahamas Waste is developing a dependable schedule whereby it visits more than 50 businesses through New Providence to collect used cooking oil, which is then brought to the processing facility and crafted into fuel. Pulling up to the upgraded facility, King told Guardian
Business that the new tanks and piping allow the company to treat the cooking oil while simultaneously producing biodiesel. In other words, whereas before production was held up by the refining process, now they can work in tandem, leading to greater production. "We're getting the locomotive moving forward," he explained, "and we're still getting up to speed. We should see our costs come down significantly." Francisco de Cardenas, the managing director at Bahamas Waste, said the company is focusing on marketing efforts with local businesses. The company wants to offer branding opportunities for restaurants to show off their commitment to "green" projects. The company has also considered an educational campaign with The College of the Bahamas, for example. Executives admit biodiesel is often met with skepticism, more aligned with science fiction than fact. However, Bahamas Waste has indeed brought the concept into reality.
King told Guardian Business that a key to its ongoing success is the price of raw materials. Methanol is required as part of the refinement process, he said. Bahamas Waste buys its methanol from a manufacturer in South Florida. "There is demand for it," he said. "We don't control the price. As more people look for renewable energy solutions, we hope the price will remain stable." While he expects to see significant results form the upgrade soon, the biodiesel coordinater believes it will be closer to the fourth quarter of this year before dividends are realized.
"If it allows us to flat line our fuel costs, that means better cost management," he said. Bahamas Waste is now riding a high coming off a successful 2011. It recorded net earnings of $461,000, more than doubling its result from the previous year. However, results are still behind Bahamas Waste's ten-year historical average of $570,000 in net earnings per year. Investment in biodiesel has impacted earnings, making the department's success crucial for the company's 15,000 shareholders.
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