McDonald’s UAE completes 5 million kilometres on McFuel biodiesel

Sixteen vehicles collect cooking oil from McDonald’s 135 outlets up to twice a day, which is then converted into a renewable fuel, or biodiesel.

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If America runs on Dunkin’ Donuts, then McDonald’s transport fleet in the UAE runs on McDiesel.

McDonald’s UAE fleet will complete 5 million kilometres this month, or the distance to Mars and back, fuelled entirely by biodiesel, thanks to a partnership formed four years ago between the world’s largest fast-food chain and the Dubai-based biodiesel producer Neutral Fuels.

Sixteen vehicles collect cooking oil from McDonald’s 135 outlets up to twice a day, which is then converted into a renewable fuel, or biodiesel.

It is the first quick service restaurant in the Mena region recycling all of its “waste cooking oil for refuelling the company’s logistics fleet to transport its goods throughout the emirates”, said Rafic Fakih, managing director and partner at McDonald’s UAE.

Each litre of cooking oil can make about one litre of biodiesel, according to Karl Feilder, chairman of Neutral Fuels. And the price matches what customers would pay at the pump, although the company declined to comment on wholesale prices and discounts for providing the feedstock.

McDonald’s is not the only company using the alternative fuel. Neutral Fuels says there has been an increase in biodiesel purchased in the UAE, doubling sales each year for the past three years.

This month, the company produced and sold 400,000 litres of biodiesel to hotels, restaurants, transport companies, schools and for power generators.

“At the moment, we’re satisfying a fraction of 1 per cent of the potential market, and our goal is to reach 5 per cent,” Mr Feilder said. The global advanced biofuel market, which includes vegetable oil, is expected to reach US$24 billion by 2020, or a compound annual growth rate of nearly 50 per cent from last year, according to Allied Market Research.

Neutral Fuels has one biodiesel refinery in the UAE with a capacity to produce 500,000 litres a month.

“We’d love to expand to the broader GCC and then Mena, but getting permission is hard,” he said. Mr Feilder related it to attempting to get a permit to start drilling for oil in a new area, which can take years of negotiation with governments and relative entities as well as feasibility studies. “Everyone knows how to get permission to drill for oil,” Mr Feilder said.

“With biodiesel, it’s a new concept to most.”

This adds to the increasing interest in the renewable energy sector as the world’s largest climate change event kicked off yesterday.

Heads of states from 150 countries have started negotiations at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris to discuss a global accord to slash carbon emissions.

The UAE is sending a delegation of more than 120 people including representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Energy, Masdar and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.

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