Waste oils and fats as feedstocks for biofuels production


Used Cooking Oil, tallow, lard, yellow grease, chicken fat, and the by-products of the production of Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are increasingly used as biodiesel fuel feedstocks. For example, the feedstock used by Neste Oil NEXBTL (HEFA) production facility in Rotterdam is now over 65% waste oils and fats. See presentation from EBTP SPM6, Large-scale chemical conversion of oils and residues in Rotterdam made by Petri Lehmus NesteOil.

Recent developments

Double counting of UCO and animal fats as 'sustainable' biofuel feedstocks

UCO and animal fats are "double-counted" as a feedstock under the latest Energy Council proposal to revise the Renewable Energy Directive and Fuel Quality Directive to address concerns over iLUC and the impacts of biofuels produced from "food crops" (including palm, rape, soy, etc). However, biofuels produced from UCO or animal fats are not counted towards the proposed target for advanced biofuels. See the biofuels legislation page for further details.

Increasing use of UCO as a feedstock for road biodiesel and biojet fuels

Neste Oil has developed the NexBTL process for production of "Renewable Diesel Fuel". The company has 4 facilities (Finland, Singapore and Rotterdam) that are able to produce HEFA. Initially, the main feedstock was palm oil (now 100% certified and traced back to the plantation where it originally comes from). A major challenge is sourcing and certifying of alternative feedstocks. In 2014, Neste Oil introduced its own sustainability verification system (approved by the EC) to accelerate the utilisation of waste oils and fats. The 2017 Biofuels Barometer reports that Neste Oils is gradually changing its production sites to vary int raw materials. By the end of 2017 in Rotterdam only used oil and animal fat shall be feedstock. Furthermore Neste has launched a renewable diesel made entirely from waste and residues under the brand name Neste MY Renewable Diesel at selected service stations in the Helsinki region in January 2017.

2017 Aviation News reports that Singapore Airlines has begun a series of biofuel flights using A350-900 aircraft on non-stop trans-Pacific flights between Singapore and San Francisco. The project is being undertaken by Singapore Airlines in conjunction with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. The programme will demonstrate the environmental and economic benefits that can be achieved through a combination of the latest fuel-efficient aircraft, alternative fuels and optimised flight operations to reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions.
The A350s taking part in the program are being powered by a combination of HEFA (hydro-processed esters and fatty acids) – a biofuel produced from used cooking oils – and conventional jet fuel. Altogether, Singapore Airlines will undertake 12 flights using this biofuel mix during the next three months. The first of the “Green Package” flights occurred on 1 May, linking San Francisco International Airport with Singapore Changi Airport.

2016, BIODEX-SA, a company based in Tunisia, earned the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) certification for the production of biodiesel. BIODEX-SA is the first company to collect waste oils and transform them into biodiesel in Africa, as well as the first in Tunisia to earn RSB certification. The BIODEX-SA, biodiesel plant converts used cooking oil to biodiesel, which is then sold to the European market.

In the UK, UCO-derived biodiesel now accounts for a third of biodiesel supplied to the market [Source: Convert2Green/UKSBA]. See also Written evidence submitted by UK Sustainable Bio-Diesel Alliance (UKSBA) (to Environmental Audit Committee of the UK Parliament) on effectiveness of double-counting and other support measures. There has been some debate about the large volumes of UCO imported to UK from the Netherlands. See Ecofys report Trends in the UCO Market (2013).

In Greece, CEPRI has developed the BIOFUELS-2G project to collect UCO and convert to biofuels.

UCO has also attracted significant interest from airlines and fuel producers as a sustainable feedstock for biojet fuels. For example, in April 2012, Qantas used a blend of 'UCO-biojet' and conventional jet fuel in a trial flight from Sydney to Adelaide. The fuel produced by SkyNRG, Netherlands, has been used by various other airlines (See SkyNRG assessed feedstocks).

Novozyme enzyme technology to convert waste oil into biodiesel

In Decembr 2014, Novozymes announced the launch of Novozymes Eversa®, the first commercially available enzymatic solution to make biodiesel from waste oils. The enzymatic process converts used cooking oil or other lower grade oils into biodiesel. Biodiesel producers can thereby reduce their raw material costs. The resulting biodiesel is sold to the same trade specification as biodiesel created through traditional chemical processing.

View video on enzymatic biodiesel

Quality benefits of Animal Fat-based biodiesel

Waste animal fat is also increasingly used as a feedstock. Besides the environmental benefits, recent studies claim that biodiesel produced from 100 per cent animal fat - also called Animal Fat Methyl Ester AFME - contributes to better overall engine performance. Compared with conventional fossil diesel, this type of biodiesel improves engine efficiency, reduces exhaust emissions and lowers engine noise levels (See Alfa Laval - Cash from Trash).

Expansion of biofuels production from animal and fish processing wastes

Today, multi-feedstock production facilities for biodiesel fuel produce animal-fat based biodiesel of high quality. In Europe, BDI has built >30 biodiesel plants within the last 15 years with capacities of up to 100,000 tons per year. BDI offers multi feedstock technology to produce biodiesel at an industrial level. At present, a $5m plant is being built in the USA, with the intention of making 3 million gallons of biodiesel fuel from some of the estimated 1 billion kg of chicken fat produced annually at the local Tyson poultry plant.

Likewise, some small-scale biodiesel factories are using waste fish oil as biodiesel fuel feedstocks. A Vietnamese plant aims to produce 13 tons/day of biodiesel from catfish from 81 tons of fish waste (see Berkley Biodiesel Feedstocks Review).

European Projects on conversion of Waste Oils to biofuels

At a local level, several EC-funded projects have addressed UCO collection, to avoid dumping down drains and to increase the availability of UCO as a sustainable feedstock for local fuel producers, e.g. the IEE project Recoil.

Further information on production of biofuels from Waste Oils

European Waste to Advanced Biofuels Association - EWABA brings together EU Used Cooking Oil (UCO) Collectors and other actors from the waste-based biofuels industry.