Every year, 10 August is celebrated as International Biodiesel Day in honour of the research experiments of Sir Rudolf Diesel who ran an engine with peanut oil on 10 August 1893. He envisioned that someday, fossil fuels would be replaced with fuels of biological origin. But producing biodiesel from poultry waste is something that was not even considered worthy till recently. Dr. John Abraham, a young scientist from Kerala (India) made it possible. Read the complete story:

Bio-diesel is an alternate fuel, which can be used in all diesel engines, which reduces vehicular pollution considerably. The Indian bio-fuel policy, 2018, proposed a 10 % reduction in the import of crude oil in the next four years. The policy also proposed a 20 % blending of bio-diesel and bio-ethanol for national energy security. The bio-diesel required for 20 % blending would be 16.72 metric tonnes/day. Biodiesel offers several advantages over petroleum diesel including improved lubricity, a higher flash point, lower toxicity, bio-degradability, and no net contribution to the greenhouse effect because it is made from renewable resources. Bio-diesel can be used in all diesel engines at a 20 % blending level (B20). In the engine, it reduces the total fuel consumption and brake-specific fuel consumption, while it increases the mechanical efficiency and brake thermal efficiency. The biodiesel leads to less engine wear, a quieter engine, and better fuel economy. The better lubricating qualities of bio-diesel prevented the overheating of the engine. The blending of biodiesel at 20%, substantially reduces the engine emissions as proved by significantly lower smoke levels of 47.14 %. This is due to the high cetane value of animal fat bio-diesel which has shorter ignition delays, providing more time for fuel combustion, leading to more efficiency and less exhaust emission.

Consumption volume of biodiesel in India from 2011 to 2020 (in million litres)

As global energy consumption escalates, the biomass-to-fuel processes are increasingly becoming important areas to the energy industry and policymakers. The valorization of oils and fats via transesterification/esterification reaction is a convenient method for producing biodiesel with qualities suitable for diesel engines. Biodiesel with its consumption had increased from 0.25 billion gallons in 2006 to ∼2.0 billion gallons in 2018, and the trend has also been projected to be linear in the future years.


A flock of kites over poultry waste dumped in waterbody (Courtesey: The New Indian Express)

In every state of India, about 350 tonnes of broiler chicken waste is produced per day.  As such, this huge quantity of slaughter waste pose a catastrophic threat to the environment and may result in major health hazards and emerging diseases to human as well as livestock. As of now, most of these wastes are disposed of in water bodies and uninhabited areas leading to ground and surface water pollution, obnoxious odour, and health hazards posed by indiscriminate breeding of microorganisms, parasites, and house flies. Among the different bio-secure and sanitary disposal methods, rendering is an excellent way to recycle this troublesome waste material into a good feed ingredient and rendered chicken Oil. Conversion of rendered chicken oil into biodiesel may open new vistas for generating wealth from waste besides controlling the major havoc of environmental pollution.

Dr. John Abraham

Dr. John Abraham, presently an Associate Professor of College of Veterinary Science, Pookkod, Kerala chose this unexplored sector as the subject for his doctoral thesis at Madras Veterinary College. A two-step process to convert rendered chicken oil to good quality bio-diesel was researched and invented. Since the FFA of the RCO was >1%, 1st step was to reduce the FFA level by acid-catalyzed esterification of FFA using sulphuric acid. The second step is to convert the pre-treated oil into biodiesel by transesterification using sodium hydroxide. The base-catalyzed transesterification of triglycerides was carried out after meticulously standardizing the methanol molar ratio, catalyst concentration, reaction temperature, and reaction time to obtain the maximum biodiesel yield of 97.62% and lowest glycerol yield of 16.96%. Compared to commercial diesel (B00) which had a cetane number of 54.4, the chicken oil bio-diesel (B100) had a high cetane number of 72.5. This indicated that B100 would have a shorter ignition delay leading to high engine efficiency and subsequently reduced exhaust emissions. 20% RCO biodiesel blended with commercial diesel was tested in a CRDI engine.  The results revealed that the blending of commercial diesel with 20% RCO biodiesel leads to less engine wear, a quieter engine, and better fuel economy. The better lubricating qualities of RCO B20 prevented overheating of the engine. The blending of biodiesel at 20% to commercial diesel can reduce the import of costly crude oil and simultaneously, substantially reduce the engine emissions as proved by 47.14% lower smoke emissions.

The doctoral work of Dr. John Abraham, now Associate Professor at the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University from 2009 to 2012 led to the production of biodiesel from broiler slaughter waste and dead poultry birds. He along with his guide Prof Dr. Ramesh Saravanakumar filed a patent for this invention in the year 2014 on behalf of Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University. A 50 Litres per day pilot plant was established at the College of Veterinary and Animal Science, Pookode with the aim of producing biodiesel from slaughter waste and used (fried) vegetable oil.



The finished product is being used in a vehicle belonging to the Instructional Livestock Farm of Veterinary College, Pookkod and the vehicle has become more smooth, the emission has drastically reduced and the fuel efficiency dramatically improved. The biofuel produced by him was validated by BPCL, Kochi refinery and a farm vehicle was running on it with better engine efficiency and significantly reduced engine emission. ‘The Hindu’ had reported this news on 29th May 2016. Influenced by this report several rendering plants had come up in Kerala, all of which transformed the chicken waste into protein meal, a valuable feed ingredient for pets and fishes.


According to Dr. John Abraham,  ‘the world is in a quest for alternate fuel and biodiesel is the promising one as it is renewable and non-polluting. The economics of this project is that the raw material is a waste and its cost is negative five. This waste is collected and cooked at high temperatures and pressure from which the oil is extracted. 36 % of the waste is converted to animal and pet feed ingredients which are having 62 percent protein which costs Rs. 20 per kg. This process at present is being carried out at the multi-species abattoir of the Brahmagiri Development Society, Wyanad. Eighty-six percent of this oil can be converted into biodiesel and 14 percent of the oil is glycerine, which can be used for making soaps and cosmetics. The biodiesel produced here has been tested at the Quality Control Lab of the Kochi refinery of Bharat Petroleum Corporation and they have confirmed that it conforms to ‘BIS’ (Bureau of Indian Standards) standards. Biodiesel produced from chicken slaughter waste has a high cetane value of 72 as compared to 64 of petro-diesel, which improves its efficiency in diesel engines. The present production cost of biodiesel comes to Rs.32/- per litre and at present, it is used at 50 percent blending with petro-diesel in unmodified diesel engines. This technology is a promising one as it has the twin advantage of producing ‘wealth from waste’ at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reduces the incidence of cancer, and improve the health of common people.’

Dr. John Abraham stresses the importance of biodiesel as an alternate fuel in the present alarming fossil fuel demand in India. He continues ‘the total weight of the dead birds available in India per year was estimated at 2.4 lakh tons as per the standard mortality of the industrial average. which can be converted to 8500 tonnes of biodiesel. Thus biodiesel production technology provides an opportunity to produce wealth from waste. At the same time, this concept can also solve the major problem of unscientific disposal of dead birds and slaughter waste. India with 16% of the world population could boast of only 0.5% of the world’s oil reserves. India imports 75% of its crude oil requirements. The estimated crude oil import cost comes to about 10% of the country’s G.D.P. India’s energy security would remain vulnerable until alternative fuels to substitute/supplement petro-based fuels are developed based on indigenously produced renewable feedstocks. In biofuels, the country has a ray of hope.’

Dr. Ramesh Saravanakumar

Though Dr. John Abraham and his guide Prof Dr. Ramesh Saravanakumar filed the patent application for this invention in 2014 on behalf of Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, the IPO had intimated that the claims for this patent were found to be in order for the grant in April 2020. But since a biological material obtained from India was used in the patent, permission from the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) had to be obtained. Dr. Ramesh took all efforts to complete the formalities for the NBA agreement. But unfortunately on 25 November 2020 without seeing the patent certificate, he passed away. It took a long seven and a half years for the Indian Patent Office (IPO) to finally issue the certificate of grant for the invention ‘Biodiesel production from Rendered Chicken Oil’. Dr. John had dedicated this patent to his teacher, guide, and mentor late Prof. Dr. Ramesh Saravanakumar.

This innovation of Dr. John Abraham has bagged him the ‘India Innovation Growth Programme Award-2016. Dr. John Abraham was also awarded the ‘DST-Lockheed Martin-India Innovation Growth Programme-2016 for this invention. (The DST-Lockheed Martin India Innovation Growth Programme is a joint initiative of the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India; Lockheed Martin Corporation, USA; Indo-US Science and Technology Forum; Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Stanford Graduate School of Business; IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin and TiE Silicon Valley. The aim of the programme is to accelerate innovative Indian technologies into the global market). Dr. John was recently awarded NITI Aayogs ‘Atal India Challenge’ for this invention.

(Dr. John Abraham is the son of Dr. J Abraham, Consultant Meat Technologist and former Director and Professor, Centre of Excellence in Meat Science and Technology, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University)