UA Researchers transform the residue from the extraction of olive oil into energy
Some researchers at the University of Alicante are involved in the project of transforming the residue from the extraction of olive oil (crushed olive pulp) into second generation biofuels
Alicante, 26th April 2013
The project, called PYROEX: “Pirólisis Industrial de Subproductos de la Almazara” (Oil Mill Byproduct Industrial Pyrolysis), aims to carry out the construction of an extrusion-based pyrolysis reactor capable of producing continuous industrial biological biofuel and coal mining, and eliminate the environmental problems generated by such waste from the food industry.
This initiative, coordinated by Olax22 SL, a UA technology-based firm, specializing in innovative processes for waste recovery, with the participation of researchers from the UA Institute of Chemical Processes Engineering, as well as the firms: Ingeniería Ballester & Catalá, Foradia S.A.L., Inel S.L. and CTAEX (Food and Agriculture Technological Centre of Extremadura).
The project, which is part of the INNPACTO Programme, from the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with a total budget of €1,040,000 and will be valid until the end of 2015.
Spain is the largest producer and exporter of olive oil worldwide, with an average of 1,200,000 tons a year, 33% of world production. While olive oil itself provides a great source of health, by its fatty acid composition, the resulting byproducts, such as crushed olive pulp, represent a major environmental problem.
The treatment of these wastes through safe and green technologies has become a crucial goal because of the devastating effects of these wastes to the environment. "The fact that this type of waste is produced in large quantities and short periods of time, has even increased the need for technically feasible treatment processes", Andrés Fullana Font explains, a researcher, and lecturer from the UA Department of Chemical Engineering, and the main promoter of the firm Olax22 SL
Olax22, will make crushed olive pulp extrusion-based pyrolysis processes at the pilot plant scale in order to obtain information with which to supply the engineering firms responsible for the design and manufacturing of the prototype reactor, and to determine the best operating conditions at industrial scaling process.
Additionally, the company will carry out experiments in the laboratory on samples received from other waste and by-products of the Spanish and European agribusiness activity. The determination of other agriculture and food waste that can be treated by extrusion-based pyrolysis, provide the knowledge necessary for the consortium PYROEX to continue growing beyond the treatment of the crushed olive pulp.
On the other hand, the UA Institute of Chemical Processes Engineering will focus its activities on the development of the scientific basis for the achievement of the objectives outlined in the project, including biofuels energy validation generated in the PYROEX process both in the pilot plant and in the laboratory. They will also participate in the study of findings and the subsequent feasibility study of the overall process.
The successful completion of this project will lead to the placing on the market of a tool with a high capacity to transform a problem into energy, a rare commodity in our economy, laying the groundwork for energy recovery and the exploitation of many agrifood-related industry waste with characteristics similar to crushed olive pulp.