Sunday,20 August, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1351, (6 - 12 July 2017)
Sunday,20 August, 2017
Issue 1351, (6 - 12 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Fuel from the kitchen

Is it possible to make fuel out of old cooking oil?

Fuel from the kitchen
Fuel from the kitchen

In 2016 the Ministry of Finance told the daily Al-Ahram that there would be no increases in the prices of fuel as the bill on the new value-added tax (VAT) was being discussed and increasing the price of fuel was not a priority at the time, writes Mai Samih. In December, Cabinet Spokesman Ashraf Sultan told Akhbar Al-Youm that increases in fuel prices were merely “rumours”.

However, on 29 June Prime Minister Sherif Ismail announced that the subsidies on fuel in 2017-2018 would decrease from approximately LE150 billion to LE110 billion and that there would be an increase in the prices of fossil fuels on the grounds of economic reform as a result.

Fuel such as petrol is becoming unaffordable for many car-owners as a result, and anyway is a source of pollution. For this reason, a group of 25 young people who graduated from the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University decided to look into alternative fuels made from a simple ingredient found in every Egyptian kitchen — cooking oil.

They have been working on collecting used cooking oil from households in Cairo to filter it, categorise it according to the quality of the oil, and make fuel out of it. The project is called “Green Pan” and aims at providing a clean source of energy and preventing oil from being spilled into drains and mixing with waste water to pollute the environment. The higher the quality of the cooking oil, the better the fuel that can be made from it, explained Rawaa Abdallah, the group’s public relations representative.

“We started the project in 2014, but it originated as a graduation project of the founders of the project two years earlier,” Abdallah explained. “We organised campaigns to collect cooking oil from households, and the project focuses on transforming used cooking oil into an alternative to solar fuel, bio-diesel or petroleum, as well as being a raw material for glycerine.”

 Abdallah said the service is offered through the group’s Facebook page, from which they collect information about households wanting Green Pan representatives to collect cooking oil from them. Housewives talk to the representative and he comes straight to their homes to collect the oil.

“We supply them with bottles that can take some five litres of oil and a funnel to make pouring the oil easier. This makes it easier for them to store the oil as well,” she said. In addition, they give each household a bottle of liquid soap to encourage them to collect the oil. Although they are a small team of 25 members, they all do tasks like collecting the oil and communicating with households. “Sometimes workers in the factory also collect the oil,” Abdallah added.

This resulting fuel is mixed with other oil or is sometimes even used alone in cars, especially large vans. It can be mixed with other oil and used to lubricate machinery. “It is an alternative to petrol, but a better one since its exhaust has a less negative effect on the environment. This is because petrol is a derivative of petroleum and its exhaust has a more negative effect on the environment, while the cooking-oil derived fuel is environmentally friendlier,” Abdallah pointed out.

According to the BBC, Brazil is now a pioneer in using ethanol, a fuel made out of sugarcane, to provide car fuel. Many cars there now use this fuel, and the government has made it mandatory to mix the fuel with petrol. Egypt is a pioneer in making fuel out of cooking oil, making it possible that this new oil could be a substitute fuel for petroleum, if the government is ready to support such ideas.

 Studies were presented to the Ministry of Environment last year to make alternative fuels out of solid waste and agricultural residues to produce what is called refuse-derived fuel (RDF) for use in heavy industries like in the manufacturing of cement. Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmi then decided that this alternative energy could be used and that relevant laws would be amended, according to the Cairo newspaper The Daily News.

 

PLANS FOR EXTENSION: According to Abdallah, Green Pan now works in many Cairo districts. “We cover all the districts of Cairo and Giza, including Faisal, Haram, Downtown, Dokki, Mohandessin, 6 October city, Sheikh Zayed, Nasr City, Heliopolis, New Cairo, Helwan, 10 Ramadan and Obour. We are also planning to reach Alexandria,” she said.

She described the process of collecting and manufacturing the fuel. “A housewife talks to us and we arrange appointments with a representative of the project. The representative comes and takes the oil she has collected and gives her a container that can take five litres of oil. When the oil gets to the factory it goes through a chemical process to transform it into fuel,” she said.

“We are a private project and no government organisation supports us. However, we have permissions from the ministries of environment and health that stress the legality of our work and that we are transforming this oil into fuel oil, not something that is harmful to society or even recycling it for use in households.”

Abdallah said that cars do not use the fuel and demand is still less than it is in some other countries. “The use of the fuel is still not so great, and only cars that go through certain changes can use it. At present, it is mostly used for lubricating machines in factories. Cars using the fuel are limited in Egypt, since it is not yet known about enough,” she said.

One main problem faced by Green Pan is recognition. “In general, the idea that there is a new thing out there is difficult for people to accept. It is therefore our duty to tell people that fuel made out of cooking oil is a very natural thing and that countries around the world are seeking such alternative fuels. We try to reach as many people as we can and convince them to write to us on our Facebook page. It has been a huge challenge for us to reach enough people, though up to now we have reached about 5,000.”

“We mainly see our role as raising the awareness of people, especially about recycling waste, not just collecting oil and transforming it into fuel. We make them more aware that recycling is the correct thing to do. We also tell them about the dangers of throwing oil in the kitchen sink and letting it mix with waste water .The oil causes problems in the filtering of the water and can block pipes.”

Abdallah measures the group’s success by how people react to the idea. “People call us and tell us that they have told their neighbours or relatives about the idea of collecting oil and recycling it,” she said. 

“But we need to do more to cover all the governorates. The project is only known about through Facebook. Although we have reached many people, we still need people to support it more, start recycling kitchen oil more, and spread the idea more. We want to reach all the villages step by step, even the smallest villages in Upper Egypt,” she concluded.

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