Recycling cooking oil for biofuels
As part of the city's efforts to encourage the use of alternative fuels, a cooking oil recycling plant was opened in 2008 to turn oil from restaurants in La Rochelle into fuel for vehicles.
Implementing sustainable mobility
Prior to measure implementation, 50 percent of used cooking oil in the Urban Community of La Rochelle was collected by specialised companies. Owing to the high cost of collection, the other 50 percent was thrown out with municipal waste or discharged into the wastewater network. The aim of the measure was therefore to:
- open a used cooking oil treatment plant making use of oil collected from restaurant owners in La Rochelle and its surroundings;
- organise the collection and recycling of used cooking oil;
- use the recycled cooking oil to replace pure plant oil in the blended fuel (30 percent biofuel and 70 percent diesel) used in vehicles run by the city's Water Treatment and Waste Management Departments.
A local working group was formed comprising the Mobility, Transport, Water Treatment, Environment and Waste Departments, the School of Engineering (EIGSI), the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management (ADEME) and the French Institute for Pure Plant Oil (IFHVP).
- A feasibility study was carried out, including an analysis of best practices for oil collection, local potential in La Rochelle, technical conditions for plant construction, and the economic aspects of the system. Priority was given to methods avoiding the addition of fossil fuels or potentially dangerous products, such as alcohol, in order to save energy during the oil recycling process. A suitable location for the plant was identified near the water treatment facilities and biofuel filling station.
- In March 2007, technical staff from La Rochelle visited the cooking oil recycling plant in Graz. Exchanges focused on the recycling process and used oil collection.
- In early 2007 a survey was carried out among 400 restaurant owners in La Rochelle to assess the expected quantity of available oil and to explore the level of potential interest in such a service. Due to the high cost of collection, an alternative solution was proposed by the restauarants. They offered to bring their oil free of charge to dedicated collection points in cans provided by the Urban Community.
- In April 2008, the cooking oil recycling plant was opened.
- 60 agreements were signed between the Urban Community of La Rochelle and restaurant owners for the recycling of used oils.
- In January 2009, authorisation was given by the French Government for the use of cooking oils as biofuel.
- 82 percent of the 228 restaurant owners surveyed stated that they would be interested a system for the collection and recycling of cooking oil.
- 49 restaurants were involved in the collection system implemented by the Urban Community in December 2008.
- One barrier to implementation was uncertainty regarding the evolution of national legislation regarding biofuels.
- The need to sort usable from non-usable oils before recycling was another difficulty (e.g. palm oil could not be treated by the selected recycling process).