Prior to the introduction of the new protocol, all biodiesel from waste cooking oil and rendered animal fats was classified as a waste product until it was burnt in an engine. This placed an administrative burden – and associated costs - on producers and end users of the biofuel, who were required to comply with waste management controls governing its handling, transport and storage. The ‘waste’ tag applied to biodiesel also created problems for producers keen to market their biofuel as a quality product.
The new Quality Protocol, which applies in England and Wales, addresses these issues by setting end-of-waste criteria for biodiesel from waste cooking oil and rendered animal fats; determining the point at which the biofuel ceases to be considered a waste. The protocol shifts this point of recovery further ‘up’ the recycling supply chain, to where the biofuel meets the requirements of approved standards for automotive and heating fuels (specifically BS EN 14214 and BS EN 14213, the British Standards recognised and accepted by producers and users of biodiesel).
Biodiesel produced in line with the requirements of the Quality Protocol will no longer be considered waste. The removal of this waste classification will help relieve the regulatory burden for users and producers of biodiesel, while increasing end user confidence that the product they are purchasing is of a consistent and assured quality.
The reassurance offered to users who buy Quality Protocol compliant biodiesel is significant because, prior to the introduction of the protocol, the standard of biofuel produced could be extremely variable. Poor quality biodiesel has been known to cause damage to engines, so buyers of the biofuel need to know that the product they are purchasing is fit-for-purpose. However, it has been estimated that if medium and large producers follow the voluntary protocol, upwards of 95% of all biodiesel sold in mainstream markets would be BS EN 14214 compliant.
Crucially, the new Quality Protocol will allow quality biodiesel from waste cooking oil and rendered animal fats to be produced in exactly the same manner, and at approximately the same cost, as virgin oil biodiesel. Treating biodiesel from waste cooking oil or rendered animal fat as a waste material gives other biodiesels a competitive advantage, as they do not have to conform to waste management controls. The Quality Protocol will redress this.
In addition to reducing the amount of red tape faced by producers and users of biodiesel, the new protocol could help companies to realise a number of other business benefits.
For protocol compliant producers of biodiesel the removal of the waste classification and increased quality assurance could increase demand amongst end users, presenting opportunities for further growth and increased market value.
Greater use of biodiesel has the potential to yield significant environmental benefits. These benefits include reduced emissions of carbon monoxide by approximately 50% and carbon dioxide by 78% in comparison to petroleum based fuels on a net lifecycle basis. Biodiesel can also reduce exhaust emission of particulates - small particles of solid combustion products - on vehicles with particulate filters by as much as 20% compared with low-sulphur diesel. In addition, biodiesel is biodegradable, non-toxic and it can improve engine performance.
Ultimately, the new Quality Protocol will help to raise the quality and consistency of biodiesel from waste cooking oil and rendered animal fats and, potentially, increase the amount of these materials being sent for processing into fuel. By helping to stimulate and consolidate the market the protocol will give end users greater confidence when sourcing biodiesel, and help them to meet the requirements of the Government’s Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO). The RTFO, which sets staggered targets for the uptake of biofuels over the coming years, dictates that at least five percent of fuel consumed in the UK must be biofuels by 2010/11. In light of this target, the Quality Protocol has an important role to play in increasing both the quantity and quality of fuel available to buyers of biodiesel, and in assuring them of the material’s high standard.
The Quality Protocol for biodiesel can be downloaded from the Environment Agency here.
Biodiesel case study
The London Borough of Richmond on Thames Council has given its enthusiastic support to the introduction of the new Quality Protocol for biodiesel.
The council has used biodiesel in its vehicle fleet since 2007, and believes the protocol will help resolve issues relating to the fuel’s quality and reliability – as well as encouraging suppliers to make their biodiesel ‘Quality Protocol compliant’ in future.
High quality biodiesel means lower vehicle maintenance and trouble free day-to-day running for Richmond’s fleet managers, so the council’s continued use of biodiesel is entirely dependent on being able to obtain supplies of fuel that are of a consistently high quality.
Prior to the introduction of the Quality Protocol, Richmond council had specified that suppliers should produce biofuel to European standards for biodiesel in order to obtain the best quality biofuel for its fleet.
“By making it easier to produce quality biodiesel from waste cooking oil and rendered animal fats - and removing some of the red tape restricting its use - the Quality Protocol will help us source greater volumes of high quality fuel.”
Ray Cuthbert, the council’s Head of Operations, said that the new protocol would support its drive to obtain quality biofuel by ensuring that more biodiesel meets required standards, and by removing barriers affecting its handling, storage and use.
“In the last few years the biodiesel production industry has developed rapidly, with the more serious players turning what was a ‘back yard’ industry into a serious business venture,“ he said.