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  • Ralf Schmidt

Can sufficient Biofuel from used cooking oil (UCO) be produced?

Biofuels from UCO as feedstock is the most sustainable method to produce biofuels. The CO2 equivalent of diesel is 87 g/MJ and that of UCO biodiesel is 13 g/MJ. This is a 85% emission reduction.[1] Advantages are that on the one hand it recycles a wast product and on the other hand it competes less with biofuel feedstock used also for other purposes.

The current production of Biofuel out of UCO in EU+UK is around 2.8 Mt, 18.5% of the total biofuel consumption. Up to 1.2 Mt p.a. are collected within EU+UK and another approx. 1.6 Mt are imported. Worldwide the biodiesel consumption from UCO stands at 5.12 Mt, which is around 11% of transport fuels. However, for the shipping industry it has been mainly used in pilots only and amounts to just 0.1% of final energy consumption.

For 2030 the total demand for UCO biofuels is estimated with 6.4 Mt for the EU and 27 to 37 Mt world-wide. [2]

There are some challenges along the way:

  • Limited local supply in the respective countries: This can be increased by building up collection infrastructure from industry, restaurants and households.

  • Import from other far-away countries should be avoided, since long transport creates additional emission and the UCO is then missing for local production in those countries.

  • Quality of supplied UCO can vary substantially between delivery batches.

  • Tracking throughout the supply chain to ensure that the UCO is legitimate: Different methods are under development in various countries to track the UCO from collection till refining and provide certificates.

  • Certification: To include the full lifecycle environmental and climate impacts.

In Singapore Alpha Biofuels has been in the business to produce biodiesel from UCO for many years. With collection of 500-1000 t per month their conversion rate stays at up to 99% says Allan Lim, CEO & Founder. They have developed an extensive collection system from Singapore hawker centres and restaurants. With regional cooperations the collection and conversion of biofuels from UCO can be expanded in the ASEAN region. A tracking system is under development in cooperation with A*STAR and NDA.

Some months back Alpha Biofuels got a call form marine fuel supplier Toyota Tsusho Petroleum to supply a blend of 7% biofuel from UCO and 93% regular fuel. A first voyage of a capesize bulk carrier owned by NYK sailing from Singapore to South Africa was recently completed. The blend reduces the overall CO2 equivalent emission by 5-6% and is a way to comply with IMO's strategy to reduce GHG emission.

In Germany the collection of UCO from households has recently been tested successfully in an 18 months pilot project in two cities and shall now be expanded. The households were given 1.2 l reusable collection containers which could be exchanged for empty ones at collection machines.[3] While a single household does not collect much UCO, the upscaling potential for a country- or EU-wide collection is big.

In France there have been several collection and conversion projects for a number of years, for example between SUEZ and TOTAL and by Veolia.

Overall, initiatives around the world are increase but a lot needs to be done to increase production and utilisation especially on the collection side.

[1] Yaqoob, H.; Teoh, Y.H.;Sher, F.; Farooq, M.U.; Jamil, M.A.;Kausar, Z.; Sabah, N.U.; Shah, M.F.;Rehman, H.Z.U.; Rehman, A.U.Potential ofWaste Cooking OilBiodiesel as Renewable Fuel inCombustion Engines: A Review.Energies 2021, 14, 2565.

[2] CE Delft, 2020, Used Cooking Oil (UCO) as biofuel feedstock in the EU

Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash

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