Turning used cooking oil into sustainable aviation fuel at DFW
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s environmental efforts include becoming a carbon neutral airport by 2030 and now turning used cooking oil from its F&B outlets into sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
DFW recently set the ambitious goal of reducing its carbon emissions to net zero by 2030. To achieve this, the Texas gateway looked at its waste management challenges as a sustainability and cost-reduction opportunity.
With more than 200 concessionaires throughout the Airport’s six million square feet of terminal space, the restaurants’ waste — specifically used cooking oil — was abundant.
Often called a closed-loop system or circular economy, through a partnership with Neste and Mahoney Environmental, DFW’s waste is now being upcycled to create low-emission renewable fuels that can immediately replace fossil fuels.
For passengers travelling through DFW, that means transactions for food are helping create a more sustainable future. By grabbing a bite, passengers and restaurants are, together, creating a resource used to make renewable fuels to fight climate change.
Mahoney Environmental, a leading provider of backend services to industrial kitchens across North America, collects, treats and provides the used cooking oil to Neste.
Then, Neste converts this waste material into renewable diesel or sustainable aviation fuel that is fully compatible with existing engines and infrastructure.
“As we transition away from fossil fuels to renewables and lower our carbon footprint, partnering with Neste has allowed us to close the loop,” said Kris Russell, DFW’s environmental program manager. “The best part is the ease: this is a drop-in solution.”
Over a three-year period, Mahoney Environmental worked with DFW and its concessionaires to enhance the airport’s used cooking oil collection and management system.
It and Neste provided DFW with a “one-stop shop” solution to manage a large waste stream safely and efficiently.
“When transporting oil from the restaurant to a proper storage facility, there is no room for error, such as a spill in a public area,” said Nate Goodman, project manager at Mahoney for the DFW Airport project.
“Mahoney works with businesses to ensure the process is up to par for all parties involved. Centralising the oil-collection process enhances business operations, and we can replicate a similar system that is right for any entity in any state.”
Once Mahoney Environmental removes impurities from the used cooking oil, it enters Neste’s supply chain. The used cooking oil is transported to one of Neste’s renewable product facilities to be converted into renewable diesel, SAF, and other renewable products.
The renewable diesel and SAF is then distributed globally, with nearly 30% of Neste’s total renewable products volume coming into North America.
These fuels play a role in reducing emissions from hard-to-abate vehicles, like big rigs, planes and first responder vehicles.
“Any business or city that generates used cooking oil, grease or a number of other waste materials already has the foundation for creating a circular economy,” said Jeremy Baines, president of Neste US.
“To take the next step only requires thinking about waste as a resource, a willingness to explore innovative new partnerships and a willingness to fight climate change.”
DFW is one of the busiest airports in the world and shows the potential of collecting and using waste to fuel society’s transport system.
Mahoney and Neste recently acquired General Biodiesel’s used cooking oil collection business in Washington, providing an opportunity to replicate the circular economy method at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
A conservative estimate puts the volume of used cooking oil generated by the largest 25 airports in North America at 9,600,000 pounds per year — enough to generate nearly one million gallons of advanced biofuels and, ultimately, prevent more than 7,831 metric tons of CO2 equivalent from entering the atmosphere.
About the author
Raquel Silverberg is Neste’s head of feedstock growth for the Americas.