Eagle-Vail business runs on french fried fuel | VailDaily.com

Eagle-Vail business runs on french fried fuel

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Clorado
Kristin Anderson/ Vail DailyHank Esperon filters vegetable oil to use as gasoline for his vehicles Wednesday in front of his business, Aardvac, in Eagle-Vail.business, Aardvac, in Eagle-Vail.

Aardvac uses fry oil from Larkburger and Moe’s Original BBQ to fill its gas tanks

By Matt Terrell



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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The exhaust of Hank Esperon’s 1985 Chevy Blazer has the faint aroma of french fries.

Sometimes, it smells like tortilla chips.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Esperon drives away from Larkburger in Edwards with a large vat of used canola oil. Once a week, he picks up oil from Moe’s.

After a few days of frying potatoes and chips, the oil is nothing but waste to the restaurants, but it’s fuel to Esperon. He pours the oil through vacuum filters to clean out all those crispy bits left behind, then he pours it into his gas tank.

It works just as good as gasoline, he says.

This is one of those rare, loving, mutually beneficial symbiotic relationships that also helps the environment.

Esperon and his wife, Patricia Esperon, own Aardvac, an appliance repair and vacuum retail store. They put hundreds of miles on their cars a week for deliveries and repairs, and wanted to save on fuel costs for the company vehicles.

And the restaurants have to get rid of that oil some how. Most pay to have their oil hauled away by grease trucks.

As for how it helps the earth, burning organic oils, like canola, doesn’t dump near the harmful emissions into the atmosphere as fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

Recycling all that fry oil takes a little more time, but Esperon said it’s worth it to save money, and to make sure he’s not burning that “dino fuel.”

“It’s definitely more work” going to a gas station is much easier than doing the veggie oil,” Esperon said. “But from a financial standpoint, it totally makes sense, and from an environmental standpoint it totally make sense.”

Aardvac has been picking up Larkburger’s fry oil since the restaurant opened more than a year ago.

“We were just trying to find something that was waste and reuse it,” Esperon said. “We wanted to avoid burning fossil fuels.”

It could take an hour and a half to two hours of work a week to pick up and filter all the oil, but most of that is just waiting around, and Esperon can do other things at the shop while his oil drips, he said.

More than anything, the difficult part was just making the oil business a part of their lifestyle.

“It’s something we factor into our schedule now ” picking it up and pouring it through filters is not rocket science. It’s a matter of having that as part of your daily schedule,” Patricia Esperon said.

On Larkburger’s part, there’s hardly any work at all. Aardvac picks up the oil, and that’s it.

“This is easy, and more people should do it, honestly,” said Tony Friel, general manager at Larkburger. “This is recycling what could end up in a landfill.”

Hank actually hasn’t calculated how much he’s saved in fuel costs ” he just instinctually knows it’s a lot.

“Well, take 30 gallons a week, at $3.50 a gallon, for a year and half. How much is that?” he said. “I mean, we were spending $150 a week on fuel.”

Aardvac runs four vehicles on fry oil ” an 1982 Suburban, a 98 Suburban, a 99 Suburban and a 85 Blazer.

Getting them to work properly does take a little work and patience, and filtering the oil is about the most important part, Hank Esperon said.

“The biggest problem other people have is that they don’t clean it enough,” Hank Esperon said. “It works really well if you take the time to do it well.”

After filtering, they let the oil sit for three or four weeks, letting the smallest of particles fall to the bottom. Then they siphon the good oil off the top.

How they use the oil depends on the weather. When it’s really cold outside, say below 20 degrees, he has to use a dual-fuel-tank system, with one tank filled with oil and the other with diesel fuel. Because the oil congeals in cold weather, he actually has to start his vehicle with diesel, then he flips a switch in his blazer when the oil is warm enough.

When it’s cold, but not that cold, they uses a 70/30 mix of oil and diesel. And during the summer, they can run their vehicles off of 100 percent vegetable oil. While installing those dual-tank systems took a lot of research and work, everything runs pretty smoothly now, Hank said.

“The majority of the year, it’s not even an issue, and we can just run it off of straight vegetable oil,” Patricia said.

They get about 18 miles a gallon using the oil, and about 20 with diesel fuel. So the oil might be slightly less efficient, but it actually runs quieter and smoother, isn’t a fossil fuel, and of course, it’s free.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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