French oil and gas giant Total SA has committed to having 30-40% of its raw materials come from recycled animal fat, cooking and industrial oil as part of being allowed to use palm oil for biodiesel production at its new biofuel refinery in La Mede.

The license for Total to use palm oil at its La Mede refinery – granted on 16 May – came with a caveat that at least 25% of feedstock used the plant come from recycled oils, wrote Reuters.

The rest of the feedstock would be made up of vegetable oils, including palm oil.

French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, who has become known as an opponent of palm oil, had asked Total to ensure that its palm oil met the European Commission’s sustainability criteria.

In its commitment statement, Total said it would use less than 300,000 tonnes/year of crude palm oil at La Mede, which had a total refining capacity of 650,000 tonnes, and to use other vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, sunflower and corn.

The company also said it would increase the share of recycled oils and fats in the future, depending on their availability.

French oilseed producers – which supply the country’s biodiesel industry – criticised the government’s decision to allow the use of palm oil, which they said also made up a large share of recycled oils.

“This decision is incomprehensible. Besides its ecological nonsense, it is a slap in the face of our industry,” said the head of French Oilseed Producers (FOP) association, Arnaud Rousseau.

In 2015, Total converted the La Mede facility from a crude oil refinery into a biodiesel plant with an investment of US$200M.