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Tallow and Rendered Animal Fats


Certain types of tallow and rendered animal fats have been used as a replacement for fossil fuels, mainly in the rendering industry, for over 10 years. Over the past few years it has become increasingly attractive as renewable, carbon neutral, ‘biofuel’. This is particularly the case today following the recent large price increases in oil, gas and electricity; allied with the genuine concerns over security of supply.

The Waste Incineration Directive (WID) includes tallow within its scope whether it is a ‘waste’ or not; tallow only becomes a waste when it is burned – at all other times it can be sold and used as a product.

The categorisation of tallow as a waste effectively bans its use as fuel in steam raising boilers and electricity generating plants from 28th December 2005, unless the boiler and generating station is WID compliant.None of the boilers and power plants currently using tallow is WID compliant nor do they need to be if they revert to fossil fuels or use vegetable oils as a fuel (including ‘waste’ vegetable oils from food factories which are exempt from WID).

The cost of making a single steam raising boiler at a rendering plant WID compliant has been estimated at around £300,000. It makes neither environmental nor economic sense to include tallow under WID.

What are Tallows and Animal Fats?

  • Rendered tallow and animal fats are manufactured from animal products and by-products
  • They include products such as lard and beef dripping as well as tallow
  • They are world traded commodities of significant volume
  • Within the world natural oils and fats commodities sector they constitute the fourth largest type produced and traded throughout the world behind soya, palm and rapeseed oils.
  • Around 20% of the world’s production of rendered animal fats and greases are produced by the EU-25 countries (~ 3 million tonnes per annum).

The Cost to UK Agriculture

If animal fats cannot continue to be used as a fuel after the end of this year it has been estimated that the loss in revenue for animal by-products will cost the UK meat production industry in the order of £30 to £40 million per annum.

22 other EU nations have decided against applying the WID to tallow; meanwhile the UK has decided to press ahead.
The following table shows the relative quantities of total world production in millions of tonnes and how this has changed over the past decade

* Source: Oilworld – Global Analysis

Use as a renewable fuel

  • In 2004 approximately 700,000 tonnes of the European production of tallow and animal fat was used as an alternative to fossil fuels.
  • A similar amount was used to produce soap or oleochemicals (organic chemicals)
  • The remainder was used in food products, pet food and animal feeds.
  • In 2005 it is estimated that approximately 200,000 tonnes will have been used as a replacement for fossil fuel in the UK alone
  • 75% of the tallow has been used for the generation of renewable electricity and the rest as an energy source for the rendering and slaughtering industries
  • This equates to a reduction in UK annual CO2 emissions of 750,000 tonnes
  • Significant quantities of vegetable fats are now also used as fossil-fuel replacements across Europe; including rapeseed oil for bio-diesel production and palm oil burnt for steam raising and power generation
  • European consumption of vegetable oils as fossil-fuel replacements is still rising and set to continue in the future.
  • All oils and fats, animal or vegetable, are chemically very similar as they are made up of the same types of chemical compounds
  • Their chemistry of combustion, and thus emissions, is identical
  • The combustion of natural oils and fats, animal or vegetable in place of fossil-fuel oil produces significantly lower particulate and acid gas emissions