Growing doubts over ‘chip fats’ biofuel

chip fats fryer

New analysis questions the environmental affect of rising imports of used cooking oil (UCO) into the UK and Europe.

Chip fats and different oils are thought of waste, so when they’re used to make biodiesel it saves carbon emissions by displacing fossil oil.

But such is the demand throughout Europe that imports now account for greater than half of the UCO that is made into gasoline.

According to the study, there is no strategy to show these imports are sustainable.

With no testing of what is coming in, consultants consider additionally it is ripe for fraud.

Reducing emissions from transport is proving to be one of many hardest challenges for governments all over the world.

They’ve inspired using biofuels as vital technique of curbing carbon from vehicles and lorries.

Biofuels are usually a mix of fossil gasoline and oil produced from crops or greens.

The incontrovertible fact that these crops may be re-grown and absorb extra CO2 means they cancel out the carbon emitted when utilized in engines.

Soy and palm oil had been as soon as broadly used as parts of biodiesel however this follow has been broadly discredited as a result of it encourages deforestation.

So for the final decade or so, using used cooking oil has expanded massively in its place feedstock for gasoline.

Chip fats and different waste oils have turn out to be a key element of biodiesel with an efficient trade arising throughout Europe to gather and course of the product.

But with the quantity of biodiesel produced from UCO growing by round 40% yearly since 2014, there merely is not sufficient chip fats to go round.


Palm oil is commonly used for biodiesel, however has fallen out of favour due to growing deforestation

According to a report from the marketing campaign group Transport & Environment, greater than half of the UCO utilized in Europe is imported.

Their examine suggests that is extremely problematic relating to impacts on the surroundings.

While UCO is taken into account a waste materials within the UK, in China, Indonesia and Malaysia it has lengthy been used to feed animals. The report raises the query of what folks in these nations are changing the UCO with, when it’s exported.

In 2019, Malaysia exported 90 million litres of UCO to the UK and Ireland. Figures for his or her exports to different European nations aren’t out there however the circulation of UCO is more likely to be related.

With a inhabitants of round 33 million, that is shut to a few litres per head of used oil that is collected and exported to the UK and Ireland alone.

By comparability, Thailand, which has a inhabitants of 70 million folks, managed to gather round 5 million litres of UCO in 2019.

“Because we are buying it, they have less used cooking oil to use on the things that they were previously using it for,” stated Greg Archer with Transport & Environment.

“And they’re just buying more virgin oil and that virgin oil is largely palm oil, because that’s the cheapest oil available.

“So not directly, we’re simply encouraging extra deforestation in Southeast Asia.”

Another major problem with UCO is the suspicion of fraud.

Because of demand from Europe, the price of UCO is often higher than palm oil. The worry is that some unscrupulous traders are simply diluting shipments of UCO with palm.

As oils of different types are mixed in bulk for transport, and no testing of the materials is carried out, some experts believe fraud is rife.


Biodiesel has expanded rapidly across Europe with used cooking oil often used as a feedstock

The suggestion of fraud anywhere along the chain of supply is rejected by the European Waste-to-Advanced Biofuels Association (EWABA), who say there are robust certification schemes in place.

“It is broadly recognized that the European Commission has taken related steps to utterly curb unsound market practices in biofuel markets,” said Angel Alberdi, EWABA’s secretary general.

He says a new database being developed by the EU will ensure that trading, certification and sustainability data on all bio-liquids will have to registered.

“The mixture of revised certification schemes and the pan-EU monitor and hint database will make sure that no sustainability points come up in the entire biofuels and bio-liquids provide chain,” he told BBC News.

Others in the field are concerned that the database idea, which was first mooted in 2018, may not be effective in stemming suspected fraud.

The report from Transport & Environment points out that with shipping and aviation looking to decarbonise by using biofuels, demand for UCO could double over the next decade.

“Rising the demand past sustainable provide ranges would enhance these issues, and dangers of utilizing ‘faux’ UCO, doubtlessly resulting in oblique impacts comparable to deforestation.”

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattmcgrathbbc.

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