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A Life Cycle Assessment of Biofuel Produced From Waste Cooking Oil

[+] Author Affiliations
Sierra Spencer, Malia Scott, Nelson Macken

Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA

Paper No. IMECE2018-86301, pp. V06AT08A004; 8 pages
  • ASME 2018 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition
  • Volume 6A: Energy
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, November 9–15, 2018
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5207-1
  • Copyright © 2018 by ASME


Biofuels have received considerable attention as a more sustainable solution for heating applications. Used vegetable oil, normally considered a waste product, has been suggested as a possible candidate. Herein we perform a life cycle assessment to determine the environmental impact of using waste vegetable oil as a fuel. We present a cradle to fuel model that includes the following unit processes: soybean farming, soy oil refining, the cooking process, cleaning/drying waste oil, preheating the oil in a centralized heating facility and transportation when required. For soybean farming, national historical data for yields, energy required for machinery, fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium), herbicides, pesticides and nitrous oxide production are considered. In soy oil refining, steam production using natural gas and electricity for machinery are considered inputs. Preprocessing, extraction using hexane and post processing are considered. In order to determine a mass balance for the cooking operation, oil carryout and waste oil removal are estimated. During waste oil processing, oil is filtered and water removed. Data from GREET is used to compute global warming potential (GWP) and energy consumption in terms of cumulative energy demand (CED). Mass allocation is applied to the soy meal produced in refining and oil utilized for cooking. Results are discussed with emphasis on improving sustainability. A comparison is made to traditional fuels, e.g., commercial fuel oil and natural gas. The production of WVO as fuel has significantly less global warming potential but higher cumulative energy consumption than traditional fuels. The study should provide useful information on the sustainability of using waste cooking oil as a fuel for heating.

Copyright © 2018 by ASME



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