Used Cooking Oil biodiesel: best in class to decarbonise road transport

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

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According to EWABA, Farm Europe’s op-ed “Fraudulent Used Cooking Oil biodiesel – bad for the climate and a blow to EU farm, oilseed and plant protein sectors” was “slanderous and irresponsibly tendentious”. [Shutterstock]

The Used Cooking Oil biodiesel (UCO) is best in class to decarbonise road transport and therefore, it attracts “bullying”, writes EU waste biodiesel producers (EWABA).

EWABA represents the EU waste biodiesel producers using used cooking oil (UCO) and animal fats and UCO collectors. This opinion piece responds to an op-ed recently published on EURACTIV.com by the think-tank Farm Europe, which EWABA has described as “slanderous and irresponsibly tendentious”.

No established association defending the interests of EU farmers, oilseed and protein or crop-based biofuels has echoed these vile attacks against UCO biodiesel. We believe European interest representatives can be forces for good by promoting legitimate EU industrial, climate and environmental interests. Producing malicious and defamatory content to bully an industry made up of honest hardworking people is the lowest manifestation of the profession.

Annex V of the REDII gives UCO-based biodiesel the highest typical and default greenhouse gas (GHG) savings. Audited production plants throughout the EU are producing UCO-based biodiesel with more than 90% GHG savings when compared to fossil fuel. UCO biodiesel is therefore the most effective solution to decarbonise the majority of cars being placed on the market today and in the coming years.

Given this positive carbon footprint and waste biodiesel higher production costs, the EU legislator has been promoting biofuels produced from UCO (together with animal fats and several other advanced feedstocks) with a policy incentive known as the double counting mechanism. Should this mechanism not exist, no fuel supplier would be blending waste-based biofuels but opting for cheaper crop-based options with way lower GHG savings.

The REDII establishes a flexible 1.7% limit on the energy content (3.4% in Member States applying double counting) for the contribution of feedstocks in Part B of Annex IX (UCO and animal fats) to the 14% target of use of renewable in transport. In order to prevent market contractions, the EU legislator established that this limit can be surpassed taking into consideration feedstock availability and with the Commission’s consent. Several member states relying on waste will make use of this provision and continue incorporating waste biodiesel to achieve their decarbonisation targets.

UCO is one of the most highly regulated commodities in the world. Complete traceability exists from where it originates (restaurants, food processing facilities or household collection points) until the end of the value chain. While EU domestic household collection further develops, collections from EU professional outlets is completely mature. For this reason the EU industry relies on imports from a diversified base of third countries. Thanks to the EU demand a noxious carcinogenic waste is being taken out of the animal feed and human food chain in third countries to be transformed into a renewable fuel saving 90% GHG when compared to fossil fuels. Putting numbers in context, according to Eurostat, in 2018 the EU imported 530 million tonnes of petroleum oils, in the same period it imported 1.3 million tonnes of UCO. Taking into consideration UCOME’s GHG performance we should be importing more UCO, not less! And remember that a requirement to use “domestic” feedstock goes against the free movement of goods, a cornerstone of the EU Single market.

Like any industry in a period of significant growth, the UCO business has attracted wrongdoers. In May we learnt that a Dutch company not belonging to our association had been engaging in fraudulent behaviour. This regrettable event functioned as a catalyst mobilising the collective knowledge of the industry to curb the possibility of fraud to occur.

The first tangible result of these efforts is the EWABA Standard of Transparency, adopted in The Hague on 23 September 2019 and comprising a series of recommendations to increase transparency and traceability across the biofuels value chain. The most widely used certification scheme in the sector, ISCC, has already incorporated a number of our recommendations and discussions with other certification schemes such as RSB, 2SBS and Redcert are underway.

The industry response goes beyond the EWABA Standard of Transparency, as pan-industry gatherings over the last few months have been working on the early deployment of a functioning single pan-EU database, with different EU and national associations, producing companies, fuels suppliers and certification schemes.

In addition, building upon the 3-years work of one of our company members, Hardlevel from Portugal, we are promoting the establishment of a physical testing method differentiating UCO from virgin vegetable oils. More than 500 tests have been completed with encouraging results, and following its presentation to the European Commission, we are working to bring a European Standard to the market as soon as possible.

The combination of these three measures (EWABA Standard of Transparency, database and UCO testing method) will certainly clear the negative perception being amplified by our competitors producing less sustainable alternatives and allow EU member states to continue relying on waste biodiesel to decarbonise their transport sectors.

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