Case Study: Inside McDonalds UAE's biodiesel project

McDonald’s UAE has clocked 5-million kilometres running its trucks on biodiesel, Walid Fakih, general manager, McDonald’s UAE talks to Logistics Middle East about costs, compromise and sending the right message.
McDonald's UAE’s fleet logistics trucks just kilometers from becoming 1st in the world to drive 5-million km on biodiesel.
McDonald's UAE’s fleet logistics trucks just kilometers from becoming 1st in the world to drive 5-million km on biodiesel.

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McDonald's UAE’s fleet of logistics trucks on December 15th marked a milestone of running five million kilometres on the fast food giant’s recycled vegetable oil. McDonald’s UAE introduced the biodiesel initiative in the UAE in July 2011 with the support of Dubai FDI, the foreign investment promotion arm of the Department of Economic Development.

McDonald’s is the first fast food brand in the Middle East and North Africa to recycle all of its waste cooking oil for fuelling the company’s logistics fleet to transport its goods throughout the UAE, a statement said.

A fleet of 16 trucks collect used cooking oil from McDonald’s outlets across the country once to twice a day and convert it into 100 per cent biodiesel through McDonald’s UAE’s clean tech partner, Neutral Fuels, which is based in Dubai. The biodiesel is then used to fuel the company’s logistics fleet.

McDonalds' entire logistics fleet in the UAE is run on biofuel.

“We are proud to announce the 5 million km milestone, an incredible result which has made a significant contribution to the reduction of our carbon footprint in the Emirates,” said Rafic Fakih, managing director and partner at McDonald’s UAE. “At McDonald’s UAE we are committed to protect and preserve the environment for future generations and we are aiming to continue using our planet’s resources efficiently.”

“This milestone demonstrates long-term commercial innovation in action and proves beyond a doubt that biodiesel is the most viable commercial alternative to old style fossil fuels,” said Karl Feilder, chairman of Neutral Fuels. “Together with McDonald’s, we have shown that running vehicles on 100 per cent biofuel is a safe, logical, and sustainable course of action. We have innovated a completely new way of collecting waste cooking oil, and a novel and highly efficient method of converting that oil to biodiesel.”

Based on the 2015 UK Government DEFRA conversion factors, McDonald’s UAE has saved 99 per cent of CO2e throughout the four years of driving with Biodiesel compared to driving with normal petrodiesel. According to the 2015 UK Government DEFRA conversion factors, driving these five million km on normal diesel would resulted in a carbon footprint of 4,427,759 kg of CO2e whereas the use of biodiesel creates a carbon footprint of 56,385 kg of CO2e.

Feilder says that Neutral Fuels’ service in the UAE has seen growing interest over the last two years. “More fleet operators are being pushed to show how they are planning to comply with reducing their carbon footprint,” he tells Logistics ME. “Some fleet operators have also started to realise that using biodiesel will extend the life of their engines due to its superior lubricity, and hence see a move to biodiesel as a sensible fleet management decision.”

Karl Feilder, chairman of Neutral Fuels.

Feilder points to Neutral Fuels’ growth figures as an example of how demand for biodiesel in the UAE is growing. “We set up in 2010 and started commercial sales in 2011 with the McDonald’s UAE delivery fleet. Neutral Fuels doubled 2012 sales volume in 2013, and then again doubled in 2014, and this year we have double again. The demand for clean, green fuels is really growing,” he says.

The biggest issue holding back even faster growth in biodiesel consumption is a lack of understanding and education, Feilder adds. “All diesel in more than 64 countries already contains up to 5% biodiesel by law, and yet many fleet operators here think it is some strange new invention. With the recent announcement that McDonald’s UAE has driven over 5 million km on our 100% biodiesel fuel without any engine modification and no change in fuel economy, we hope that other companies will see this as a quick, easy, and logical step.”

There is in fact no modification or conversion required for conventional diesel engines. According to Neutral Fuels, it’s a simple case of “fill up and go”. The biodiesel is produced at Neutral Fuels plant, but Feilder says that most of its customers have their own dedicated Civil Defence approved tanks and pumps provided by Neutral Fuels for convenient re-fuelling in-house. “This saves them a lot of time queuing and makes their fleet instantly more efficient,” he says.

The convenience of the service offered by Neutral Fuels and the industry leadership shown by McDonald’s UAE in the area of biodiesel has prompted other major companies to make their logistics operations more eco-friendly. In 2013 McDonald’s UAE announced that Del Monte, its fresh produce supplier, had contracted Neutral Fuels to run 20 vehicles from its logistics fleet on biodiesel.

“As McDonald’s UAE’s longtime partner and supplier, we saw this as a great opportunity to participate in what we believe is a groundbreaking initiative,” said Oussama Naddy, general manager, UAE, at Del Monte Foods. “We were convinced to participate thanks to the numerous benefits associated with biodiesel including the 80 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emission and the ease with which the conversion from regular diesel to biodiesel can be made throughout our fleet.”

“Since the biodiesel campaign was first launched in 2011, we have seen an increasing interest from companies around the region. Del Monte’s participation in this campaign serves as a testament to the success of this initiative and fits in perfectly with our objective to encourage other UAE companies to consider incorporating similar campaigns,” says Rafic Fakih, managing director and partner of McDonald’s UAE. 

In addition to its vastly reduces emissions, biodiesel also has excellent lubricating properties which help prevent premature engine wear and failure. Biodiesel also acts as a cleaning detergent in fuel systems, improving efficiency and reducing maintenance.

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