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Used frying oil as a possible future fuel component

Instead of being disposed of, it can be reused. Not to prepare food, but as a fuel component. It is therefore possible to drive a vehicle on HVO (hydrodeoxygenated vegetable oil) derived from used cooking oil. Unipetrol and UniCRE (Unipetrol Centre for Research and Education) are now developing a process that will make it possible to upgrade this product to high-quality motor fuels. How does it work?

Used frying oil as a possible future fuel component
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The European Union requires fuel producers to gradually increase the share of second-generation biofuels in automotive fuel. This new generation of admixtures is supposed to replace biofuel components from rapeseed oil, corn, sugar beet and other food crops. Instead, producers should rather use agricultural waste to lessen competition with food production.

These substances, which could serve as second-generation biofuels in the near future, have been tested by researchers at UniCRE in their laboratories at Chempark Záluží near Litvínov, Czech Republic. The research is part of the COMSYN international project, which also includes institutes and companies in Finland, Germany and Italy.

“We are exploring the possibilities of separation and subsequent processing of the synthesised products using refining technologies. We are using pilot distillation and test hydrocracking units purchased in connection with modernisation of the research centre with financing from European funds. To put it simply, this involves mixing fractions with similar boiling points, but produced from waste biomass, into existing refinery streams. The blend is then converted into products suitable for the production of high-quality motor fuels,” explains Jiří Hájek, Director of the Development and Innovation Section of UniCRE. The centre is exploring ways to produce biofuels from waste biomass cheaper and more efficiently (waste from agriculture, wood processing and the construction industry, e.g. sawdust, straw and needles).

Buying oil from McDonald's, KFC and Bohemia Chips

Unipetrol is also taking steps to make second-generation biofuels work in practice. In trials of new components used in diesel, Unipetrol is testing an unconventional material – used cooking oil. For this three-month trial project, which is the first of its kind, the company bought 730 tons of used cooking oil.

The oil then underwent chemical treatment in on the hydro-refinery unit at Chempark, with about 80% of the renewable raw material being converted into a liquid component suitable for final blending with diesel fuel.

The remaining portion of the used cooking oil was converted to methane, propane, gasoline and water. More than half of the renewable raw material comes from China; the rest was bought in the Czech Republic from companies such as Bohemia Chips, KFC, McDonald's and other fast food chains.

COMSYN – This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 727476.