How the UK Is Tackling Biodiesel Production Hurdles Head-On

How the UK Is Tackling Biodiesel Production Hurdles Head-On

UK Is Tackling Biodiesel Production

Biodiesel is produced by mixing feedstock oil with either methyl or ethyl alcohol and lye catalyst. This process is known as transesterification and can reshape the biofuel industry in the UK and maybe, even, worldwide. 

The Challenge 

The UK is a leading player in the biodiesel industry, producing and blending it into petrol and diesel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide; therefore its contribution towards mitigating these levels should not be ignored. Under its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (which you can read here), up to 5% biofuel must be included within road diesel sales with penalties applied if suppliers don’t fulfill this target. 

But before biofuels can make an effective contribution to decarbonizing transport sector emissions, many hurdles must be cleared away first. A recent report by Royal Academy of Engineering highlights this difficulty by noting their complex carbon footprints which can be difficult to ascertain due to soil changes or global supply chains; plus indirect land use change whereby changing agricultural land into biofuel production sites results in greenhouse gasses being released thousands of miles away from where their crops were actually planted. 

The RAE report recommends amending the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) with stricter requirements on how biofuels are categorized and produced, taking local conditions into account, while increasing incentives to use marginal land that cannot support food production for energy crop planting instead of being left fallow. It further calls for clearer labeling of biofuels to avoid unintended market distortions such as when “waste” is mistakenly applied to second or third generation biofuels with lower carbon footprint than traditional oil-based fuels. 

UK road diesel currently relies primarily on first-generation biofuels like used cooking oil (UCO) to meet RTFO compliance, accounting for up to 4.75 percent. UCO production can be rapid and its source easily traceable back, making it eligible for double counting under EU regulations. 

Unfortunately, biofuel can become problematic in cold weather due to certain compounds crystallizing and blocking filters. To address this issue, fuel blenders and suppliers add cold flow improvers into biodiesel blends. 

The Solution 

As we strive toward greener transport policies in the UK, investments must focus on alternative fuels that deliver immediate carbon savings – this means supporting companies producing fuels for segments which cannot yet fully electrify such as heavy freight and aviation rather than solely producing batteries for electric vehicles (EV). 

Since 2021, when E10 – and unleaded petrol blend featuring 10% biofuel was introduced as part of its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) scheme – became part of its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, the government has taken strides toward encouraging more environmentally-friendly biofuels through its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. This move represented an enormous boost to the biodiesel industry; marking the first time ever that direct incentives had been provided by the government for using non-waste feedstocks. 

But there are alternatives to these traditional sources for biodiesel production; one such alternative is waste-based biodiesel made from recycled cooking oils and animal fats. At the Argus Biofuels event, traders, brokers, producers, political authorities, farmers, marketing & distribution professionals, storage & logistics experts, tech providers and oil companies come together for four days of networking, debate, insight sharing and new business opportunities in the biofuels market globally. 

However, to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of developing more sustainable fuels there remain several challenges which must be met first in order to make progress a reality. These include making sure supply chains are secure enough, which this Website goes into further. When done right, it should increase investment in production facilities and offering consumers with access to a comprehensive array of technologies that best suit their needs. 

The Future 

As part of the road transport mix, the UK can benefit greatly from using more eco-friendly biofuels; however, the current legal framework has several major flaws which need to be resolved first. 

The UK is currently a net importer of biodiesel, and must meet a road biofuel blending target of 5% with feedstocks coming from countries like Germany that do not charge fuel duty on biodiesel produced there and do not abide by EU rules. As such, the Treasury needs to act quickly to enable more of the producers to produce more environmentally sustainable biofuel without breaking the law. 

At present, there are approximately 100 small companies across the country operating a network of businesses collecting used cooking oil from cafes and restaurants to supply to biodiesel manufacturers in local communities. Not only are these businesses helping protect the environment by diverting waste away from landfill sites; they’re also creating jobs and incomes for local people while stimulating rural economies. 

As the UK government moves toward raising its biofuel blending requirement from 10% to 14.6% by 2032, this link states that it is vitally important that any feedstocks used are produced sustainably if we want a positive result in terms of climate, rural communities and food security. According to Green Alliance research this could result in land being taken out of food production with negative repercussions for climate, rural communities and food security. 

Final Words 

Biodiesel has become an increasingly important alternative fuel. Like ethanol, biodiesel can be made by combining vegetable or animal fats and oils with petroleum diesel or distillate to meet American Society for Testing and Materials (https://www.astm.org/) specifications for use in diesel engines – while also helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions by replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy. 

While using recycled cooking oils may be environmentally sound, this practice comes with its own set of challenges. First and foremost, using used oils to produce fuel diverts them from other purposes like feeding livestock or creating soap and detergents; additionally if soybean oil that was previously intended for feeding markets becomes biodiesel instead, soya bean producers will work harder than ever to regain some market share for them and maintain profitability. 

Another concern related to biodiesel production is how its consumption undermines global food security. For instance, during the ethanol boom period increased biodiesel production resulted in substantial shifts of corn and soybean oils from food markets into fuel markets, decreasing availability for consumption while increasing pressure for global palm oil expansion as an emergency measure to fill this void.