Biodiesel from used cooking oil (UCO) is one of the most sustainable solutions to replace conventional fossil fuels in the transport sector. It can achieve greenhouse gas savings up to 88% and at the same time reducing the disposal of a polluting waste. In addition, it does not provoke potential negative impacts that conventional biofuels may eventually cause linked to the use of arable land. For this reason, most policy frameworks favor its consumption. This is the case of the EU policy that double-counters the use of residue and waste use to achieve the renewable energy target in the transport sector. According to different sources, biodiesel produced from UCO could replace around 1.5%–1.8% of the EU-27 diesel consumption. This paper presents an in-depth thermoeconomic analysis of the UCO biodiesel life cycle to understand its cost formation process. It calculates the ExROI value (exergy return on investment) and renewability factor, and it demonstrates that thermoeconomics is a useful tool to assess life cycles of renewable energy systems. It also shows that UCO life cycle biodiesel production is more sustainable than biodiesel produced from vegetable oils.
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