111 510 510 libonline@riphah.edu.pk Contact

Reducing smog through bio-diesel

Smog has been causing major problems in country’s social and economic life. There is no need to describe the extent of losses and suffering that are being caused. Unfortunately, smog is a regular yearly feature in winter season; especially, in Central Punjab. Emergency measures are taken but not much in the way of some permanent solutions. Admittedly, pollution and smog are difficult issues. With industrial development, urbanization and agricultural activities, pollution increases. Smog is nothing but pollution riding on water drops, simply speaking. Diesel is normally used by trucks and buses. Fossil diesel mixed with a small (5-10 or 20%) bio-component, it is called bio-diesel.

Vehicular emissions are one of the major issues in causing pollution. Quality of vehicles, their maintenance and the fuel quality are major determinants of the level of vehicular emissions. Fortunately, Pakistan has adopted highest quality fuel called Euro-V which has the least sulfur. However, only imported fuel is of Euro-V standard. Locally produced automotive fuels (gasoline and diesel) do not conform to that standard. There is a new Oil Refinery Policy which aims at converting the existing old technology oil refineries to new processes and technology enabling them to produce high quality low sulfur fuel. We have proposed elsewhere that efforts should be made to distribute only imported Euro-V fuel in smog prone areas.

Coming to biodiesel, it is a renewable fuel with reduced environmental footprint as compared to conventional diesel. It has low sulfur content and produces lesser CO. It has higher lubricity and is biodegradable. Its main advantage is (20% or more) reduction in particulate matter which plays a major role in reducing smog. It is said that Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of diesel engines, ran his first diesel engine on vegetable cooking oil, which can be called ‘Bio-Diesel’.

There are six possible raw material routes for making bio-diesel. These are vegetable sources – palm oil, rapeseed, sunflower, cottonseed, canola, jojoba, Jatropha and others; waste vegetable oil or used cooking oil as it is called; animal fats like tallow, lard, yellow grease and chicken fat; algae; sewage sludge; and saline agricultural plants. The most important feature of bio-diesel is that it can be made out of waste of various kind, especially, the Used Cooking Oil (UCO).

There is shortage of vegetable oil raw material in Pakistan. Oilseeds and palm oil are imported. Hence, diversion of such sources to non-food energy sources would not be desirable. Algae, sewage sludge and saline agriculture appear to be feasible as well. Jatropha has been tried even in Pakistan, but for a variety of reasons did not make a success almost anywhere. Thus, the only potential source of biodiesel appears to be used cooking oil and food waste.

Food waste – both industrial and post-consumer, slaughter house and poultry fat and waste offer a multi-pronged benefit stream into biodiesel production; income and employment in the agriculture sector and general improvement of environment. Newer waste processing avenues are coming up, the latest one is chicken fat out of feathers, which hitherto had been a major pollution load.

Biodiesel blending

Biodiesel is blended with conventional diesel in various proportions. Five per cent blend of biodiesel, which is mostly marketed, is named as B5, 10% as B10 and 20% as B20. It is reported that up to 20% biodiesel blends, no change in engines is required. However, most vehicle manufacturers allow 5% blend without annulling warranty claims. In most European Union countries, 5% target has been achieved reportedly. The European parliament has issued RED-II (Renewable Energy Directive), according to which 12% renewable fuels are to be used by the year 2030. India has a target of 5% bio-diesel by 2030. They have installed several plants by now.

Bio-diesel production

It is relatively simple to make biodiesel, especially from used cooking oil. It is so simple that it is produced at home by the enthusiasts in the US. Used cooking oil is filtered to remove physical impurities, heated to 60-degree Celsius and is mixed and stirred with methanol or ethanol (15%) in the presence of a catalyst (NaOH). A by-product glycerol is produced which settles at the bottom. Water and excess methanol are removed. Ethanol is widely available in Pakistan as a sugar industry by-product. Glycerol can be used by the soap industry as what used cooking oil is diverted from it in the first place for making biodiesel returns back to the industry.

Pakistan’s bio-diesel potential

Pakistan’s cooking oil market is estimated at 4 million tonnes per year. If 10% of the consumption is assumed to be collectable used oil, 400,000 tonnes per annum of used cooking oil can be used for bio-diesel production. By comparison, diesel consumption in Pakistan is 7 million tonnes. Thus, some 5% biodiesel (B5) can be produced in Pakistan.

In India, public-sector oil companies have been recently assigned the task of introducing biodiesel based on used cooking oil. Also, in India, McDonald’s and other similar companies have launched their own recycling programmes to turn used cooking oil into biodiesel to run their refrigerated trucks. Companies are being opened in India for collecting UCO and making bio-diesel.

Regulation of used cooking oil

High-level restaurants use cooking/frying oil only twice and discard it after that. Used cooking oil is collected from high-level restaurants and is resold to low-level and street restaurants without any processing or cleaning. Legally, used cooking oil cannot be used again in cooking. It is not known as to how much of it is diverted for non-cooking purposes such as soap-making.

Used cooking oil should be a regulated product. Its sale, collection and resale should all be a licensed activity. The Punjab Food Authority has taken some action in this regard.

Bio-diesel industry may provide an alternative outlet for used cooking oil, reducing the opportunity for its diversion to illegal cooking uses in the commercial market.

Time to launch a bio-diesel programme

Biofuel initiative was taken in Pakistan in 2007 with a lot of enthusiasm. Bio-diesel blending target was B5 by 2015 and B10 by 2025. PSO and all relevant public-sector organizations took a lot of interest. The programme was almost totally based on Jatropha. However, as mentioned earlier, Jatropha plantation efforts and yield did not come up to expectations in almost all parts of the world. It would be advisable that PSO rediscover its earlier programme based on used cooking oil. It is a pleasure to see that Total/PARCO is taking interest in bio-diesel. They are cooperating with Punjab Food Department to establish a viable Used Cooking Oil (UCO) collection programme. Once a collection system is developed, there isn’t much in bio-diesel manufacturing. For PARCO, it should be a left hand job. Other companies may also try to enter into it.

Thus, we see that bio-diesel is useful in a number of respects; removal of used cooking oil from food market, reduction in crude oil imports, saving s in foreign exchange, reduction in pollution and smog and preventing clogging of the sewerage system. Let us revive a bio-diesel programme to achieve these objectives. Households and commercial food centers should be encouraged to participate in a UCO collection programme. Making or blending bio-diesel out of it is a rather simpler job comparatively.

Syed Akhtar Ali, "Reducing smog through bio-diesel," Business recorder. 2023-12-05.
Keywords: Environmental sciences , Economics , Winter season , Fossil diesel , Fuel quality , Refinery Policy , Cooking oil , McDonald , Commercial market , smog , Pollution , Pakistan , PARCO , UCO , PSO

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *