Palm oil collected from Hong Kong beaches after spill to be recycled and turned into fuel

Officials confirmed to have approached at least two biodiesel companies to collect some of the 211 tonnes that fell into the sea

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2017, 8:54am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2017, 11:50pm

A large portion of the washed-up palm oil clumps that the government collected from Hong Kong’s beaches and shorelines over the last two weeks will be recovered, refined and turned into transport fuel.

It was understood as of Wednesday evening the government had approached at least two companies to collect some of the 211 tonnes of the stearin – which fell into the sea when two boats crashed in mainland waters – for waste oil recycling.

Tseung Kwan O-based ASB Biodiesel will be helping the Environment Protection Department turn a portion of the vegetable oil waste into biodiesel, and that some of it had already arrived at its factory.

On Wednesday, a department spokesman said the collected palm stearin would “decay easily under a damp environment”.

“The [department] earlier approached two local biodiesel companies for them to collect the recyclable palm stearin recovered and turn it into biodiesel or other recycled commodities the soonest possible,” he added.

When burned, biodiesel emits lower levels of greenhouse gases than petrol and diesel.

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The company said most of the profits from the biodiesel’s sale would go to environmental groups.

A department source said only some of the palm oil collected would be suitable for recycling. Some of it had been contaminated and would inevitably end up in a landfill.

At least 1,000 tonnes of palm oil stearin was leaked into waters near Hong Kong earlier this month after the Singaporean container ship Kota Ganteng collided with the Panama-registered, Japanese-owned chemical tanker Global Apollon.

Hong Kong authorities only heard of the incident two days later. By then, globs of stearin had begun washing up on the city’s southern shores, closing 13 public beaches.

Two beaches, St Stephen’s in Southern District and Pui O beach on Lantau Island, reopened on Tuesday. Five were still closed on Wednesday. The rest had reopened already.