Lootah Biofuels races ahead in UAE with biodiesel project

Written by: Imran Khan | Published:

When you think of biodiesel projects, the United Arab Emirates is not the first country that springs to mind, however a company called SS Lootah Group says it's leading the way in the Gulf. Imran Khan reports

Lootah Biofuels (LBF) is a fully owned subsidiary of UAE-based SS Lootah Group, a business entity created after the successful completion of SS Lootah Group's biodiesel project which won the Dubai Award for Sustainable Transportation (DAST) for the use of biofuel, made from used cooking oil (UCO), in the company's fleet of ready-mix trucks.

According to LBF, high carbon footprint countries like UAE see biofuels as a way of reducing harmful emissions and combating global warming, hence the company's aims to introduce and innovate sustainable solutions for the long term energy requirements. "Our objective is to produce biodiesel in the most efficient and sustainable way to deliver economic value and environmental benefits," said a LBF spokesperson.

To meet the biodiesel challenges in UAE, LBF introduced biodiesel as a pilot project in a non-subsidised model by working on the locally available knowledge, technical knowhow and resources, thereby making it viable. Working closely with universities, engineering teams and marketers, LBF reports it has developed a model for biodiesel production that is complementary to various sectors, including waste management companies, transportation, energy, education and research. Realising the importance of economic perspective, LBF says it has strived hard on localising the technology and using the local synergies in ensuring that the costs of production is below the cost of diesel without any sort subside.

In the UAE, transport sector consumption is reported to contribute to around 90% of the total diesel demand in the country and the demand in the sector is expected to rise due to the proliferation in cargo trade.

In cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi there are said to be more than 4000 restaurants with potential to deliver UCO for biodiesel production. "Our objective is to synergise all these restaurants to dispense their UCO responsibly. This will involve close work between various stakeholders like waste management companies, biodiesel producers and fuel companies supported by policy and incentive from government," states LBF.

Services and products

LBF offers the UAE market a diesel blending agent. "Biodiesel B5 is an ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel blended with 5% of biodiesel. This 5% will act as a lubricant to reduce the carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions from the vehicle. We are converting used cooking oil to biodiesel (B100) and further blending it with high quality Petro diesel in the ratio 5:95. The final product is called as B5," says the biofuels specialist.

LBF also produces glycerin which is a by-product of the biodiesel production process. On the production of one litre of biodiesel, the by-product will give three glycerin soaps which are chemical free and eco-friendly.

Production plant

According to LBF, its plant has been used as a pilot project for biodiesel production whose capacity is 300,000 litres of B100 - which is 100% biodiesel in a month. "In the first stage we are providing B5, which is a blend of 95% of petro-diesel and 5% of biodiesel B100 and we are producing as per the current demand. Our fully automated biodiesel plant with ATEX standard, PLC-control, database PC and internet remote control guarantee the highest biodiesel quality and reduces the plant operation costs," contines the company spokesperson.

International standards

To be blended with diesel fuel, the biodiesel has to meet ASTM standard D6751-08 which includes the specific standards which are to be met while producing biodiesel. LBF says it conducts full ASTM tests to verify the performance of biodiesel processing equipment and accuracy of the process.

ASTM International serves as the independent agency that determines whether fuels are "fit for purpose". ASTM has approved biodiesel for use in engines by creating a standard for B100 (D6751) and permitting biodiesel blends up to B5 in the petroleum-based diesel specification (D975). This means B100 is "fit for purpose" in engines and that B5 is no different than petroleum-based diesel in terms of engine performance.

Testing at Lootah Biofuels Labs includes biodiesel fuel quality control, blending evaluation, fuel contamination issues, quality conformation, trace residual analysis and other tests.

Sustainability partners

Partner companies include:

Roads & Transport Authority (RTA)

Dubai Police

PAN Emirates

Dubai Driving Center

TNT

Emirates Transguard

Sustainability initiatives: Green Car Program

A solar-powered car designed by the Lootah Technical Centre in Dubai is reportedly capable of travelling at a speed of 45km per hour. LBF says the 'Green Car Program' has seen a great progression since inception, starting from conversion of part of the company fleet to compressed natural gas, and followed by the use of hybrid cars and high mileage vehicles and most recently, electric cars, making Dubai the first city in the Gulf to license electric cars. The SS Lootah Group is said to have further strengthened the programme with the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) in 2009 to explore mobility options for the staff members.

RTA bio powered green bus

The Green Bus project is a collaborative effort between the RTA and SS Lootah Biofuels supported by the United Nations Environment Program. The initiative, reportedly the first of its kind in the region falls under a wider picture the UAE Vision 2021 of Green Economy for Sustainable Development. Expanding the green profile of Dubai's public transport, RTA has launched the first green bus in 2012 as a pilot project and after a successful trial has now expanded the fleet.


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