(We asked Whole Energy Fuels representatives to comment on the following opinion piece, but they say they will issue a public update after the first of the new year and prefer not to comment at this time. The following is the writer's own opinion and not that of Riptide.)
The structure to house the biodiesel refinery plant has been permitted by the City of Pacifica, but the "machinery" (meaning the various tanks, plumbing, and valves that will be the plant) has yet to be fully designed beyond the basic concept illustrations currently provided. The engineer designing the mechanics of the refinery for Whole Energy Fuels (WEF) told me at a private meeting with the WEF team that he was surprised that he was able to conceptually fit a 3-million-gallon-a-year refinery into only 4,000 square feet of building. The recent permit for the plant's structure did not include any engineered drawing for how this elaborate assemblage of vertical storage tanks, automated computer-controlled switching valves, and grease boilers will be housed within the 4,000-square-foot, metal-sided steel beam structure, but the engineer said he conceptually did it by "pushing the envelope" of mandatory safety regulations of 2-foot clearances for spacing between tanks, pipes, boilers. and valves.
Another interesting development in this saga is the closed-session item on lease terms. We know the lease is for five years, with an additional five-year option at $65,000 a year or its equivalent in "energy." But because lease terms were placed in closed session, we won't know what the terms are because closed session forbids City Council members from openly talking about them. I could be wrong, but because it's a closed-session item, I can't ask questions and get answers.
Finally, the project's initiators' assertions of process being done right are noble, but the history of this project's lack of process makes their otherwise reassuring promises rather doubtful. But that's all water under the bridge. I hope the city and WEF will insist on bringing final engineering drawings for the plant to a public hearing or an agendized consideration item before it is finally approved by the city.