UAE recycling: Dubai plant takes used cooking oil and turns it into fuel
Oil used to cook french fries is now lowering emissions and increasing vehicle efficiency across Dubai – as it becomes biodiesel.
There are several biofuel production plants in Dubai. However, Neutral Fuels stands out as the only company capable of taking cooking oil directly from restaurants and turning it into 100 per cent biodiesel.
Although there are other factories that produce what is known as E5, or traditional diesel, with 5 per cent biodiesel, Karl Feilder, who set up Neutral Fuels in 2011, said that the way forward is to make the refinery processes more efficient and make the case that biodiesel can be used as a full replacement for normal diesel.
“It smells a little like methanol and vegetable oil. You can drink this and it won’t kill you,” he said.
“Normal diesel was pressurised, heated and cooled over millions of years. We all understand that, but it is the same as biodiesel. We produce, within 24 hours, what takes a million years to produce normal diesel,” he said.
› See the process here: How to refine cooking oil into biodiesel - graphic
Companies, such as McDonald’s, send almost 300,000 litres a month to Neutral Fuels to get it refined into various forms of biodiesel. But this is just a fraction of the cooking oil used in the emirate.
Most companies are selling their used oil abroad to be refined, reusing it for cooking, or simply dumping it.
Mr Feilder said that the cost of sending cooking oil abroad is 50 cents (Dh1.84) a litre.
He sells his biodiesel at the same price as normal diesel which, at the time of writing, stands at Dh2.05.
Organisations that refine their cooking oil in the UAE are taking the advantage, as they sell their oil and therefore get their cars or lorries filled at a reduced rate.
McDonald’s in Dubai has been refuelling one of its lorries with biodiesel since it came off the production line. It has travelled 350,000 kilometres running only on biodiesel.
“If you go and ask any of these truck producers whether they’ve run tests on biodiesel, if they are being honest they’ll tell you they don’t know,” he said.
According to one car manufacturer, running mixed biodiesel in a diesel-engine vehicle is perfectly fine for the car. If pure biodiesel is to be used, however, slight modifications must be made.
According to Stephen Smith, the sustainability manager at Brookfield Multiplex, a company that has used biodiesel for the past three years, the transition was seamless.
“We found that the fuel economy is the same if not better than standard diesel. We also reduce our CO2 emissions, so we decided to roll it out to all our transportation vehicles and even some lorries,” he said. “It was a fairly simple process, we just have to change the filter in our cars.”
As such, several companies are beginning to make the case for the government to start including a minimum of 5 per cent biodiesel in regular diesel as has become the standard in several European countries including France and Germany.
Several companies are beginning to promote the case for the government and that is what is needed according to Emirates Environmental Group head, Habiba Al Marashi. “We need everyone to have a recycling-minded outlook. Companies that use cooking oil should know that there is a way to reuse. We need everyone to be a part of this and the government is encouraging it,” she said.
Ms Al Marashi said that it is not only the companies that need to work on promoting these ideas, but the end consumer as they are the ones driving demand.