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One of the most exciting recent developments in green energy?  A common waste product—used cooking oil—is now being adapted into fuel that can be used by the utility grade boilers many institutions in the Northeast already use to generate heat. 

Lifecycle Renewables collects waste cooking oil from thousands of restaurants in the Northeast, processes that oil into fuel compatible with standard oil-fired boilers and sells it to educational, industrial, commercial and municipal clients ranging from the City of Philadelphia to Harvard University. 

How does it all work? Let’s start with the “birth” of the most common cooking oil you’ll encounter at your favorite neighborhood restaurant. 

Soybean oil is a popular multipurpose oil because it’s a versatile, flavor neutral oil that has a high smoke point—which means it can be used for anything from deep frying to lubricating a pan or grill so food doesn’t stick. Most soybean oil starts life on a large farm in the Midwest, where Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota produce almost 40 percent of domestic soy. The plants go in the ground in May and are harvested right around the start of football season, in September.  

Those Soybeans go from the farms to a processing plant where the hulls are removed and the oil is extracted either with large presses or a chemical solvent that separates the oil from the solid plant material. The oil is then refined to remove solid matter and other contaminants and to produce the uniform color and consistency you’d see if you opened one of the common 35-pound plastic jugs a restaurant would order in bulk. 

If a restaurant does a lot of deep frying, its fryolator can go through upwards of 50 gallons of oil per month. As oil is used in a fryer, it accumulates particles of contaminants and begins to discolor and perform more poorly. Depending on how much food a restaurant is frying, the oil could need replacing anywhere from a day to a week of use. The used oil ends up in a storage container outside the restaurant, where a recycler like Lifecycle Renewables picks it up on a predictive algorithmic schedule and takes it to one of its five processing facilities in the

Northeast. There, the oil is converted into Truburn, a 100% waste derived heating fuel. 

Once the waste oil has been converted to usable fuel, it’s delivered just like standard heating oil—with the familiar tanker trucks you see on the roads across the Northeast. Clients like Harvard University have the oil delivered to a central holding area where the fuel can then be distributed as needed to central boiler systems. You probably don’t want to get too close to the business end of a smokestack at a university physical plant, but if you did, you’d catch a faint, familiar fried food smell when Lifecycle Renewables’ Truburn fuel is being burned. 
Waste vegetable oil-derived heating oil is popular for a few important reasons: It’s a direct fit for conventional utility grade oil burning systems, and requires no new equipment to be purchased. Burning soy-based oil produces more than 80 percent less harmful greenhouse gasses than traditional petroleum-based oil, which makes vegetable oil’s status as a carbon neutral fuel more than just a catchphrase in a marketing plan. And Lifecycle Renewables’ waste oil-derived fuel Truburn costs roughly the same as its petroleum-based counterpart. To learn more about how Lifecycle Renewables is working with restaurants and commercial, educational and municipal organizations to clean up the waste cooking oil lifecycle, talk to a representative today.