Our impact

Our goal is to combat climate change by providing sustainable fuels for transport and energy. Saving carbon is the most important thing we can do to reduce the impact of our activities on the climate. But we also believe we should not be causing harm to the environment in other ways, or having negative effects on the supply or price of food for people.

Fuels from waste

Much of our work is connected to converting waste into fuel. This is a win-win because we can displace carbon emissions from fossil fuel and also take waste out of the environment. Green Fuels’ FuelMatic equipment is designed to process waste cooking oils and animal fats, and is being used round the world. Our research projects are also looking at processing agricultural wastes such as straw and sugar cane bagasse, waste from fish farming and municipal wastes.

Waste cooking oil

When cooking oil has been used for a while it begins to break down, building up toxins that can be dangerous to human health. That’s why good restaurants and kitchens will change their oil frequently. If used oil is put back into the food chain – perhaps being sold to another restaurant instead of being disposed of – it will continue to cause a health risk. If it’s disposed of carelessly into the environment it can pollute aquifers and block drainage systems. Collecting the oil and converting it to sustainable fuel is the most responsible way to deal with it, keeping people healthy and the environment clean as well as saving carbon.

Sustainable agriculture

Worldwide, most biofuel is made from crop plants – rapeseed (canola), African Palm, soybean. The big problem is that growing crops for biofuel can cause changes to land use which are undesirable – directly or indirectly causing deforestation, or increasing the price of food that people need to eat. None of this is good, and we want to avoid it. We look for crops and planting schemes that have good effects not bad ones – like planting macaúba, a native Brazilian tree, on degraded land that allows intercropping with food plants.

Science of renewable fuels

What makes a good fuel? One of the most important questions is about energy density. Put simply, how much energy can a kilogram of a fuel hold? Or a litre? If you’re flying an aeroplane from A to B, you need to have enough energy in the tanks to get there, and you can’t have too much weight to take off. If it’s a cargo ship, you don’t want to take up half the cargo space with fuel. Hydrocarbon fuels – gasoline, diesel, jet fuel – are about the best things we have. Replacing fossil hydrocarbon fuels with sustainable ones is the most immediate way forward.

There are more than 50,000 cargo ships in the world, and around the same number of large passenger aircraft. With service lifetimes typically 30 years, we can’t wait for new types of vessel with new engines to replace existing fleets. Renewable fuels should, ideally, be “drop-in” – meaning that they can be used in existing engines without modification, and can be blended with fossil fuel where necessary. Fuels being developed by Green Fuels fit that requirement.

The carbon saving for a litre of renewable fuel can be very large indeed, because extracting and refining fossil fuels uses a lot more energy than just burning the fuel. Waste-derived biodiesel has a carbon intensity of 437 grams CO2 per litre, compared with 3,128 grams per liter for fossil diesel. So the carbon saving is 2,691 grams CO2 eq per litre. Green Fuels’ equipment has saved more than 6.5 million tonnes of CO2 eq since 2003.

As fuels are burned in an engine, they produce more than just carbon dioxide. There is good evidence in the scientific literature that renewable fuels can produce lower levels of particulate pollution than fossil fuels – seen in cleaner-burning diesel engines and in less contrail formation from jet aircraft.

UN Sustainable Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), described by the UN as “an urgent call for action” [to promote] “peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. We support all the UN SDGs.

Our projects and products naturally address SDG 13, Climate Action. But we also work towards SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, by promoting low-carbon, low-polluting transport and a circular economy. We help SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation and SDG 14, Life Below Water, by keeping waste oils out of water supplies and sewage systems. SDG 3, Good Health and Well-being, is helped by removal of wastes from the human food chain. SDG 15, Life on Land, is helped by sustainable, responsible agricultural systems and re-forestation programmes.