Used Cooking Oil (UCO) – sometimes referred to as waste cooking oil – refers to oils and fats that have been used for cooking or frying in the food processing industry, restaurants, and households. It can originate from both waste vegetable oil and animal fats. It is estimated that around 90% of cooking oils and fats in the EU are produced from vegetable oil.
The quality of UCO is critical to its transformation into advanced biofuels, and is impacted by a range of factors including the cooking oil collection method. The main challenge in using UCOs as a renewable energy resource is their content in impurities like free fatty acid and water. Even in small amounts, fatty acids can cause problems to occur in transesterification – the process used to produce renewable fuels for diesel engines. Consequently, UCOs destined for use as a feedstock to produce fuel for diesel engines.
UCO-based biodiesel aligns well with the European Commission’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which covers GHG emissions, biodiversity and carbon stock. Under this directive, used cooking oil and some tallows are classified as ‘waste vegetable and animal oil’. Their use in FAME production is deemed to yield carbon savings of 83%.