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Could you fuel your delivery trucks on ramen fat?

Japanese companies are using biodiesel fuel made from discarded lard from cooking ramen noodles to power their vehicles.

At last week’s Green Awards ceremony, the drinks business applauded one drinks partnership for swapping diesel for vegetable oil to power its delivery trucks. The change, made by EV Cargo Patrners and AB InBev, gave an immediate 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on some of its delivery routes.

Now a Japanese train company has revealed it is using fat left over from cooking ramen noodles and Tempura to fuel its journeys.

Takachiho Amaterasu Railway, which operates in Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan, began trialling the alternative fuel solution in June 2022 using a ratio of 9:1 discarded tempura oil and lard extracted from ramen broth and refined with chemicals.

Prior to this, ramen biofuel had been pioneered by Nishida Shoun, a trucking company based in Shingu in Fukuoka City, which refines 3,000 litres of the noodle broth daily to power its 170 trucks operating  in western Japan.

When testing out the ramen fuel, the rail company reported that the train had no probems in climbing steep slopes, for which increased fuel is usually required, and that there was an absence of black smoke or the strong smell of exhaust gas usually present in diesel-run engines. However, workers did highlight a smell of “stir-fried oil”, similar to that which you might find in a restaurant.

The idea to recycle ramen waste full-time began with Masumi Nishida, the 74-year-old chairman of transportation firm Nishida Shoun, back in 2007. Nishida said he was inspired by then-Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi, after he likened biofuel made from sugar cane in Okinawa to a “green oil field.”

Curious about the potential for discarded ramen broth, Nishida began studying soup samples. He developed a way to remove unnecessary components from the broth by melting them, but could not determine an optimum water temperature for the method until, while eating dinner, he noticed that the oil bubbles suddenly seemed to disappear after reaching a certain temperature. Using a thermometer he was able to pinpoint the exact temperature by which to melt pork fat.

“The endeavour to retrieve only oil from soup is epoch-making,” Chihiro Kongo, associate professor of machine engineering at Okayama University of Science’s Faculty of Engineering, told The Asahi Shimbun.

“It will also offer a good opportunity for people to become interested in the effective use of waste as well as soup treatment within households. Recovering oil and fat efficiently remains a challenge for the method’s spread, but it will be ideal if it is used nationwide.”


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