EU Feedstock

One Third of Used Cooking Oil in Europe is Fraudulent and EU Will Limit Usage

EU curbs used cooking oil in biodiesel due to fears of fraud. One third of used cooking oil in Europe is fraudulent. EU throws the ball to member states to monitor RED II implementation.

Used Cooking Oils (UCO) is considered as a renewable resource (second generation) for the bioplastics industry.


Article 1

EU curbs used cooking oil in biodiesel due to fears of fraud

The Department of the Environment has said it may have to alter the statutory instrument promoting biofuels in Ireland after the EU placed a cap on biodiesel made from used cooking oil (UCO) in response to environmental concern about the fuel.

Within the EU, Ireland is one of the heaviest users of UCO biodiesel, which is blended into diesel sold in filling stations.

Ireland imported 130m litres of UCO last year, a third of which came from China. However, partly in response to fears of fraud in the UCO market, the EU has capped the amount of UCO that can be counted towards renewable energy targets after 2020. Ireland is exceeding this cap and will need to increase its use of other forms of biofuel…


Article 2

Industry source: one third of used cooking oil in Europe is fraudulent

One-third of the used cooking oil (UCO) used in Europe’s biofuels market is more than likely fraudulent. Brussels urged to “think again” about how the entire supply chain is monitored.

“This is because the approximately 70 countries that supply Europe with UCO do not have the capacity to collect, process, certify and export the nearly 3.5 billion litres that will be consumed here in 2019,” the source said.

“Especially when you consider that many countries outside the EU need much of it in their own domestic markets,” the same source added.

According to the revised Renewable Energy Directive, UCO is double counted. In theory, this means, for instance, that if UCO’s consumption is 2%, it will be counted as 4% of the total energy used in transport. Thus, it’s an attractive solution for the member states that wish to meet their green transport goals.

However, in practice, things get more complicated. The UK and the Netherlands have recently launched official investigations into companies which have allegedly been selling unsustainable biodiesel containing palm oil.

EU sources told EURACTIV last month that the monitoring of the directive implementation remains to a large extent the responsibility of the member states.

Critics suggest that there is a hidden link between UCO and palm oil, which the EU has decided to phase out due to its high-ILUC (Indirect Land Use Change) risk.

“In a scenario where UCO attracts super premium pricing due to double-counting, where it is cheap and easy to adulterate virgin palm oil to seem like UCO and where the regulation is not adequately designed to prevent fraud, it is self-evident that much of our UCO is fake,” the industry source said.

“If Brussels assumes that the global UCO supply chain is an ‘honour system’ then it should think again,” the source added.

The European Court of Auditors published a report in 2016 and warned about the hidden dangers of double-counted biofuels and particularly UCO.

“The EU certification system for the sustainability of biofuels is not fully reliable because of weaknesses in the Commission’s recognition procedure and subsequent supervision of voluntary schemes,” the report said.

“Considering the inadequacy of the checks to verify the origin of biomass consisting of waste or residues, it cannot be excluded that data on double counted biofuels might include quantities of biodiesel certified as produced from UCO, whilst, in reality, the feedstock may have been from virgin oil or fraudulently denatured virgin oil,” it added.

Contacted by EURACTIV, an ECA spokesperson said the Court had not followed up its audit of biofuels in detail and thus could not provide a comment.

Laura Buffet from the NGO Transport & Environment commented: “It is crucial that authorities apply a high level of monitoring on biofuels supply chains and conduct investigations when needed.”

‘We are an easy target’

Following the publication of this article, Angel Alberdi, Secretary General of EWABA, the EU waste-based biodiesel association gathering EU UCO collectors and producers of UCO-based biodiesel, commented:

“We reject in the strongest terms these allegations from an unnamed source. Unsubstantiated allegations such as this one are scandalously slanderous and to the benefit of our competitors who are trying to smear our industry for their own advantage.”

He added that UCOME delivers the highest GHG savings as stated in the REDII, is produced in commercial quantities and our customers pay a premium to get the most sustainable molecules.

“UCOME is therefore an easy target,” Alberdi said.

He admitted, though, that there was an ongoing investigation in the Netherlands and in the UK.

“If fraud is eventually proved it will be a good outcome as actual fraud is extremely damaging given that fraudsters benefit from a competitive advantage over the immense majority of industry players who are bearing the costs of processing waste oils and of implementing traceability systems,” he said.

“Our industry is currently working with certification schemes and other industry stakeholders to continue improving traceability in the whole value chain as past fraud scandals have erupted in sectors other than ours,” he added.


Article 3

EU throws the ball to member states to monitor RED II implementation

The implementation of the revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) remains to a large extent the responsibility of the member states, EU sources told EURACTIV.com, in light of ongoing fraud investigations into the practice of mixing palm oil with cooking oil (UCO).

According to the RED II, used cooking oil (UCO) is double counted. Double-counting means, for instance, that if UCO’s consumption is 2%, it will be counted as 4% of the total energy used in transport. Thus, it’s an attractive solution for the member states who wish to meet their green transport goals.

However, in practice, things get more complicated. The UK and the Netherlands recently launched official investigations into companies, which have allegedly been selling unsustainable biodiesel containing palm oil.

Critics suggest that there is a hidden link between UCO and palm oil, which is decided to be phased out due to its high-ILUC (Indirect Land Use Change) risk.

“UCO is often not what it appears to be, and if not of European origin, palm oil is often masquerading as UCO through international adulteration. It is in the interest of the climate and the European biofuel industry to shed light on the dark side of UCO,” a source from the EU biofuel industry told EURACTIV on condition of anonymity.

An EU source said the Commission has been given some powers, including the recognition of biofuel certification schemes (so-called “voluntary schemes”), but “the member states are for instance responsible for the design of support schemes, which may affect the risk of fraud, and the supervision of certification bodies that are conducting independent auditing under the voluntary schemes”.

In its 2016 report on the EU System for the Certification of Sustainable Biofuels, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) had warned about the hidden dangers of double-counted biofuels and particularly UCO.

“The EU certification system for the sustainability of biofuels is not fully reliable because of weaknesses in the Commission’s recognition procedure and subsequent supervision of voluntary schemes,” the report said.

“Considering the inadequacy of the checks to verify the origin of biomass consisting of waste or residues, it cannot be excluded that data on double counted biofuels might include quantities of biodiesel certified as produced from UCO, whilst, in reality, the feedstock may have been from virgin oil or fraudulently denatured virgin oil,” it added.

The EU source explained that the executive still has an important role to play and will take several measures that are relevant in this context.

“First, the Commission will put in place a central database tracing all renewable fuels including all biofuels and second, it will set out detailed certification rules to be applied by the voluntary schemes in an implementing act.”

“Both measures have been agreed as part of the Recast Renewable Energy Directive to mitigate the risk of fraud by increasing transparency and by introducing stricter and more harmonised certification rules,” the source said.

EURACTIV also asked if the EU has data about the palm oil percentage in used cooking oil, but was told that statistical data on the consumption of biofuels and the palm oil percentage is not available.

However, Eurostat reported for 2016 a combined consumption of biofuels produced from both used cooking oil and animal fats of 3,8 Mtoe.

“The Renewable Energy Directive does not distinguish between different types of used cooking oils (i.e. the type of vegetable oil used for the cooking) because used cooking oil is a waste and the use of wastes and residues for biofuel production is considered best practice,” the EU source said.

However, in the RED II directive, UCO is not considered waste but as “feedstocks for the production of biofuels and biogas for transport, the contribution of which towards the minimum share established in the first subparagraph of Article 25(1) shall be limited and may be considered to be twice their energy content”.

The RED II directive also provides a 1.7% cap on UCO. However, several member states, including Ireland, have already exceeded it. Asked what the EU executive is planning to do to address the issue, the source said:

“The provisions regarding the limit set out in the Recast Renewable Energy Directive for biofuels produced from used cooking oil and animal fats apply only to the amount of biofuel that can be counted towards the renewable energy targets but do not affect the amounts of such fuels consumed in the member states. The Commission will ensure that these rules are respected.”

RELATED ARTICLES

REFS

ARTICLE 1 – EU curbs used cooking oil in biodiesel due to fears of fraud – Published on thetimes.co.uk

ARTICLE 2  – Industry source: one third of used cooking oil in Europe is fraudulent – Published on euractiv.com

ARTICLE 3 – EU throws the ball to member states to monitor RED II implementation – Published on euractiv.com

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