One Company’s Waste is Another Company’s Feedstock

By Doug Smith | May 01, 2013

The art of rendering has been around for centuries either as a means of producing fats for food, or for the industry of the time. Bygone years of rendering for cooking fats, soap making, candle production, naval stores, and grease for the cap and ball hand guns of the Civil War are pretty much in the past with the exception of small niche markets, and for historical preservation. All the while, the rendering industry remains invisible to most of society.

The rendering industry of today is very different from the past industry by virtue of modern computer-controlled cooking systems, high-efficiency extraction, and regulations to control and track the waste feedstocks to the final products, which are analyzed for many items from moisture content to pesticide screening, metals and sulfur.

The markets into which rendered products are sold are different from the past and appear to be continuing to change. Traditionally and currently, the major markets are for agriculture use in feed ration blends for livestock to increase the calorie intake for each pound of feed eaten. This addition of fat results in faster growth of the animals, shorter time to market, and less expense to produce the food we eat every day.

Other usages direct the fats into the oleo chemicals industry. Many of these oleo chemicals can be found in paints, plastics, textile-sizing waxes for cloth production, textile softeners, lubricants and many more products. From the oleo chemicals industry, we also get the chemical that most of the readers will really relate to, and that is methyl esters of fatty acids (biodiesel).

Another growing segment of the buyers of rendered fats and oils is the competing industry of “renewable diesel” producers. Many renewable diesel producers are petroleum refiners who use the rendered products for reasons that vary from having a reliable, renewable feedstock, to other reasons such as fulfilling environmental portfolios.

The increase in the number of industries that use rendered products has been and is either a blessing or a curse, depending on who you are. The sword of Damocles hangs over all industries producing or selling fats and oils; for the rendering industry, the additional sales and markets have resulted in increased sales prices and profits but have also spawned theft and vandalism for many. And as industry goes, the losses and additional costs of production do two things, they cut into renderers’ profits and increase the cost to the buyer of the feedstocks, cutting into that industry’s bottom line.

Most reputable biodiesel producers understand these issues, and this has resulted in reputable competition for collecting waste oils at restaurants by biodiesel producers, or the understanding of feedstock prices from the renderer, which results in a sales relationship that continues to grow, helping to solidify the feedstock supply for that biodiesel producer. Many who have tried have found that collecting their own fats and oils can get expensive when the vehicles and processing equipment have to be purchased, in addition to the operating costs.

Currently the products sold by renderers are tallow, lard, poultry fat, yellow grease (aka inedible kitchen grease, used cooking oil), and brown grease (aka trap grease, interceptor grease). Tallow, lard and poultry fat are made from the scraps, trimmings and offal of beef, swine and chickens and turkeys, respectively. The process begins with the inspection of the material to prevent contaminants from entering the system, and then the material goes through a sizing grinder that feeds a continuous feed cooker, where the material is cooked at around 270 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to mainly kill any pathogens in the material and liberate the fats. The fat is then pressed from the solids where it goes through further filtering and drying before being quality checked to meet industry and customer specs. Yellow grease goes through a screening process and then is heated to allow faster decanting of the water and some solids. After decanting, the grease is heated to dry the remaining water and at the same time kill pathogens. Quality testing is then conducted to meet specs. Brown grease is brought in with all of the trap water and solids, which first go through screening to remove solids and dirt. The fat material is heated to decant water, then heated to dry and kill pathogens. Further filtering may be necessary to make this material meet specs for customers, but goes through the same quality testing to make sure the customers receive consistent products.

Author: Doug Smith
R&D Director, Baker Commodities Inc.
323-268-2801 ext. 3283
[email protected]

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