From: Glen Hasak, Green Lodging News, More from this Affiliate
Published December 24, 2007 08:18 PM

Used Cooking Oil Helps Heat Juneau, Alaska's Westmark Baranof Hotel

Juneau, Alaska  -  After eating an evening meal of fish and chips, tourists in Juneau who retire for the night at the Westmark Baranof Hotel may find themselves warming their toes in a room partially heated by the oil used to cook their food. The Baranof collects the town’s used vegetable oil to help heat the hotel.

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Environmental benefits from using vegetable oil include releasing fewer pollutants into the air, recycling of carbon already in the system and a reduction in carbon output. In addition, businesses in Juneau have found a reliable way to dispose of unwanted cooking oil without running afoul of environmental regulations. Employees from the Westmark Baranof Hotel pick up the oil free at their doorstep each week.

“We’ve been using cooking oil for about two years now,” said Steve Hamilton, general manager at the Baranof Hotel. “There were no local disposal options, forcing local businesses to ship waste oil to the lower 48 for disposal—an expensive option imposing its own environmental costs with the transportation.”

The Baranof creates a mix of 1/2 vegetable cooking oil and 1/2 fuel oil which is then used to heat the hotel. The hotel can burn up to 2,000 gallons of oil in one month and typically uses 10,000 gallons of cooking oil over the course of the year. By using cooking oil, the hotel has reduced the amount of fuel oil they use by 9,000 gallons a year. The hotel’s chief engineer came up with the idea of using the cooking oil after hearing about the problem of oil disposal. The local incinerator that previously accepted the oil was closed after failing to meet more stringent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

After modifying the hotel’s heating system, he found a way to store the oil, mix it with fuel oil and then eventually warm and filter it for use in the burners. The heat is odorless and guests in the hotel do not notice any difference in hotel ambiance. The Westmark Baranof remains the only location in the city to legally dispose of cooking oil.

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