Used cooking oil is used for a number of valuable purposes, here are a few that are relevant to New England:
1. As renewable energy/fuel: Lifecycle Renewables creates a renewable diesel fuel (not biodiesel) by hyper-refining used cooking oil. We then use this fuel to power buildings, for use as heating oil and for transportation. The benefit of this use is that all used cooking oil collected in New England can be used as energy in New England. Lifecycle Renewables’ fuel, called LR100, has a higher energy content than biodiesel and uses no hazardous chemicals in it’s production. LR100 is considered the most environmentally friendly biofuel available and is economically viable without government subsidies.
2. As biodiesel: Biodiesel companies use used cooking oil as a feedstock to produce a biofuel called biodiesel. Biodiesel is made by chemically altering the properties of plant and animal fats. This alteration makes plant and animal oils act more like petroleum based fuels. This enables higher percentages of biodiesel to be safely blended into heating oil and transportation fuel. While this is considered a good use for used cooking oil, it is not economically sustainable without significant government subsidies and it’s environmental benefits are in question.
3. As animal feed: The rendering industry has historically mixed used cooking oil and other organic wastes with feed stuffs for animal feed. Due to fears of disease (e.g. Mad Cow) and therefore regulatory changes, most used cooking oil collected by renderers like Baker Commodities is now exported. Countries like Mexico and Venezuela still use it for feed while a significant portion of US used cooking oil production is exported to Europe for biodiesel production. Some used cooking oil collected by renderers is used for domestic biodiesel production and limited feed. Ultimately, renderers ship product for many uses depending upon market conditions.