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Sep 18, 2012

Western Cape restaurant used cooking oil turned into biodiesel

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Used cooking oil from restaurants has become a valuable resource in the Western Cape, with Envirodiesel converting it to biodiesel and selling it to companies to run a range of trucks, mining equipment and fishing vessels.

Western Cape-based Envirodiesel produces about 20 000 l of biodiesel each month from oil collected from Spur Steak Ranches, Panarottis Pizza Pasta and John Dory’s Fish & Grill restaurants in the province, owner Michael Shuttleworth said on Tuesday.

Production runs at a recovery rate of between 87% and 94%.

Envirodiesel’s principle of using only used cooking oil eradicated environmental concerns over the impact of biofuels production on food security. “We only manufacture biofuel from used cooking oil, no virgin oil is used. We do not infringe on the food chain,” he told Engineering News Online.

In addition to the benefit of being cleaner and providing better engine lubrication, Shuttleworth said biodiesel could also alleviate the pressure on the supply side of the local fuel sector. “If more biodiesel is used, more fossil diesel will be available for a longer period.”

But despite biodiesel being on average about R1/l cheaper than conventional diesel, he said it was unlikely to completely substitute conventional diesel in the long run.

“The European and American markets have a law against used cooking oil going back into any food chain; unfortunately South Africa does not have that law yet or the required level of education. Therefore, a lot of oil gets wasted - it goes back into animal feeds and people throw it down their drains,” Shuttleworth said.

“So, yes it [biodiesel] is sustainable, but will it replace fossil diesel? I doubt it.”

To date, the company has collected one-million litres of used oil in restaurant operator Spur Corporation’s oil recycling initiative that has been running for the past six years.

This has resulted in some 870 000 l of biodiesel having been produced, translating into a saving of 3.1-million kilograms of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions.

Shuttleworth said the biodiesel is sold to a mining company, as well as a fishing company which runs its vehicles on ‘small blends’, which refers to a fuel blend consisting of 90% conventional diesel and 10% of biodiesel.

Fuel is also sold to trucking company Culemborg Cargo, which uses a mostly biodiesel blend and consumed between 8 000 l/month and 10 000 l/month.

Spur Corporation group environmental manager Joe Stead said the biofuel methodology has taken long to be accepted by users, but that concerns were subsiding.

“Biofuel is a food waste product that does not take away from food security,” she noted.

Stead indicated that biofuel would have to be viewed as a long-term solution, as fossil fuels reserves would not last forever.

Although Spur Corporation had similar programmes running across the rest of the country, she said the Western Cape project was particularly successful.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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