PICKENS, SC - Pickens County received Honorable Mention in the 2009 J. Mitchell Graham Memorial Award Competition for its biodiesel program, which recycles used vegetable oil to create biofuel for use in modified county vehicles, according to The Pickens Sentinel.

"I think this is the highest recognition the county has received," said County Administrator J. Chappell Hurst. "The collaborative efforts between the staff of solid waste, recycling, vehicle maintenance, building maintenance, roads and bridges, and engineering are to be admired."

The biodiesel project began more than a year ago, as the county began looking at alternative fuels to ease the pain of high prices at the pump. Initial estimates to create a facility that would produce enough biodiesel to support the county fleet were around $750,000, but the county was able to complete the project for under $190,000, Hurst said.

Estimates state the county will save between $250,000 and $750,000 per year by using recycled vegetable oil from local businesses. County equipment is also expected to last longer, since biodiesel protects engines better than regular diesel, said Hurst. In addition, the county will also benefit with cleaner air quality.

"Biodiesel produces 78-percent less emissions than regular diesel and is free of sulfur and aromatics," said Hurst.

The county will continue with its alternative-fuel project, including continuing to convert county patrol cars to run on propane, and has applied for a Department of Energy grant that, upon approval, will provide funding to convert 40 vehicles to propane fuels, Hurst said.

"We'll be the first county in the nation to have an entirely green fleet," he said.

Officials from AT&T in the audience at the awards ceremony were so impressed with the county's presentation, they awarded the county $3,000 to help move the project forward, Hurst told the Sentinel.