banner

It takes some cooking, but turning farm waste into biofuels is now possible and makes economic sense
1158 Views

Researchers’ recipe: Cook farm waste into energy


It takes some cooking, but turning farm waste into biofuels is now possible and makes economic sense, according to preliminary research from the University of Guelph.

Guelph researchers are studying how to make biofuels from farm waste, especially “wet” waste that is typically difficult to use. They have developed a fairly simple procedure to transport waste and produce energy from it.

Scientists have struggled to find uses for wet and green waste, including corn husks, tomato vines and manure. Dry farm waste, such as wood chips or sawdust, is easier to use for generating power. Often, wet farm waste materials break down before reaching their destination.

Researchers led by engineering professor Animesh Dutta, director of the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab (BRIL) at U of G, have found a solution: pressure cooking.

Cooking farm waste yields compact, easily transportable material that will not degrade and can be used in energy-producing plants.

Dutta said the research, which is published this week in the journal Applied Energy, shows that in a lab setting, biofuels can produce the same amount of energy as coal.

“What this means is that we have a resource in farm waste that is readily available, can produce energy at a similar level to burning coal, and does not require any significant start-up costs,” said Dutta.

“We are taking what is now a net-negative resource in farm waste, which farmers have to pay to remove, and providing an opportunity for them to make money and help the environment. It’s a closed-loop cycle, meaning we don’t have to worry about external costs.”

Using excess food, green and wet waste to reduce the carbon footprint is drawing a lot of interest in Europe, he said, but so far it has proven unfeasible in North America.

Coal is more readily available in North America. Biomass is highly rich in alkali and alkaline earth metals such as silicon, potassium, sodium and calcium. The presence of these metals in farm waste damages pipes at power plants during combustion.

The new biofuel product made by the BRIL researchers produces a product that has less alkali and alkaline earth metals, allowing them to be used at power plants.

“We’re able to produce small amounts of energy in our lab from these biofuels,” said Dutta.

“The next step is to take this outside of the lab. We have a number of industry partners and government ministries interested in this technology. Essentially, the agri-food sector could power the automotive industry.”

Dutta said large pressure cookers located near farms could accept and cook waste for transport to energy plants.

“We’re looking at a timeline of five to seven years, depending on the funding,” he said.

“Once we have a commercial system set up, we’ll be self-sufficient. It can reduce our energy costs and provide an environmental benefit. It’s going to change the paradigm of energy production in North America.”

Source: Science Daily

Recently Published

a2g African Construction
»

Learning and Networking for the Construction Industry

The African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo returns to ...

a2g manufacturing Indaba
»

Developing New Manufacturers Advancement in machine learning and industrial innovations vital to boosting South Africa’s manufacturing sector.

 Following the 2008 financial crisis, which caused many industrial ...

Smart City
»

Smart Cities Redefining Property Developments

Some of South Africa’s biggest mixed-use developments are evolving ...

Landscaping
»

Changing Landscaping Habits – Cape Town’s Day Zero threat to change landscaping habits says Easigrass

As dam levels in the Western Cape hover at around 20 percent, the ...

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 10.23.43
»

GCIP-SA now part of TIA

The Global Cleantech Innovation Programme for SMMEs and Start-ups in ...

manu
»

Made in Africa: Building The Future of Manufacturing

The annual Manufacturing Indaba provides a platform for international ...

Utility Week
»

Expand your knowledge in over 40 conference sessions at African Utility Week and save money!

The largest group of power, energy and water professionals will ...

ProductivitySA
»

The 20th Anniversary Challenge of The Workplace Challenge

Vania Reyneke, Project Manager, The Green Economy Journal attended ...

a2g
»

Sustainability in building design has won Renée Minnaar of the University of Pretoria a place at 31st Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards

Sustainable building demands architectural design that aims to ...