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Coming soon! Used cooking oil may power your car

By Shine Jacob and Shreya Jai
October 14, 2016 12:29 IST
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Government considering proposal to allow conversion of used cooking oil into biodiesel, say Shine Jacob and Shreya Jai.

Soon, waste vegetable oil from McDonald’s, Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Haldiram’s could power your diesel car.

If the Narendra Modi-led government has its way, deep fryer oil will be converted into biodiesel.

The ministry of new and renewable energy has asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to come up with regulations on chip oil.

“We will rope in big food chains to collect used cooking oil. A preliminary discussion with stakeholders in this industry was done earlier,” a senior MNRE official said.

The final policy would be shaped only after FSSAI forms regulations on the quality, collection and usage of used cooking oil, said another official. The official added that both the MNRE and the ministry of petroleum and natural gas (MoPNG) have requested FSSAI and are awaiting their response.

According to data by the Biodiesel Association of India, India uses 22 million tonnes of vegetable oil for cooking purposes.

“After use, the used cooking oil that India generates is three to four million tonnes. If these food chains give it to the biodiesel industry, it can earn them Rs 40-45 a litre,” said Sandeep Chaturvedi, president, Biodiesel Association of India.

Used cooking oil can also be used by soap manufacturers, provided the policy is tweaked to allow this.

The roadblock before biodiesel companies to go ahead with this plan is the lack of coherent policy in the country. Currently, used cooking oil is a blacklisted item for both export and import. According to government instructions, cooking oil should not be used more than thrice.


  • India uses 22 million tonnes of vegetable oil for cooking
  • Currently, 2,500 fuel retail outlets in the country are using biodiesel for blending
  • Railways uses it for 5% blending of diesel it consumes
  • Biodiesel is novel to India, while it has experimental usage in developed economies such as the US and Europe
  • McDonald’s UK in 2007 announced it would produce biodiesel from its waste cooking oil to run its fleet
  • Britain’s Virgin claims to have run the UK’s first ‘biodiesel train’, which runs on 80% petro diesel and 20% biodiesel

According to biodiesel manufacturers, this may be a profitable move for large cooking oil consumers such as restaurants. “If this happens, it will create a lot of feedstock for the biodiesel industry,” Chaturvedi added.

Currently, biodiesel is used for blending with diesel. It is part of the overall strategy by the Dharmendra Pradhan-led petroleum ministry to cut energy imports and carbon emissions. Currently, 2,500 fuel retail outlets in India use biodiesel for blending, while the railways uses it for five per cent blending of diesel it consumes.

Currently, India’s dependence on oil and gas imports accounts for 80 per cent of all petroleum products and 70 per cent of the total natural gas consumed. The Modi government has a target to cut imports by half by 2030.

Last year, the MoPNG permitted direct sale of biodiesel (B100) to bulk consumers such as the Railways, shipping and state road transport corporations.

Currently, the railways is the largest consumer of diesel in India, with an annual consumption of 2.8 billion litres, of which biodiesel blending comes to around five per cent. In the last financial year, the railways consumed around 6,000 kilolitres of biodiesel. The railways has invited tenders for procuring 50,000 kilolitres of biodiesel this year.

“With 10 per cent blending, the railways can save Rs 392 crore a year on fuel bill,” Chaturvedi added.

Image: A McDonald's kitchen. Photograph: Reuters.

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