A small-scale prototype system capable of converting olive oil production waste into energy is now up and running at a facility in Granada, according to recent reports.
The prototype — the result of research at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology that concluded at the end of last year — generates electricity that is then used to partially power the olive oil production facility where it’s installed.
In 2013, the research facility working on the technology was actually visited by President Obama, who commented positively on it.
“I remember the President was very curious,” notes Carina Lagergren, the research leader who presented the project concept to Obama. “He asked, ‘If my friend — a farmer — wants to buy this system to produce electricity from waste on his farm, is it worth it?’ And, I told him it’s not, for the moment, because it’s such a new thing. You cannot buy this and expect that you can save a lot of money.”
“But in the future we hope it will,” she continues. “The system currently produces around 1 kW of power, and the project partners — which included PowerCell Sweden AB — are planning to apply for funding to scale the operation up to create 200 kW, or enough to supply 50% of the processing plant’s energy needs.”
“But for this project, the most important thing was finding a solution for all of the toxic waste left over from olive oil production,” she finishes.
The conversion process that sees this waste converted into energy is split into three distinct phases — the first sees the material broken down in a digester tank, the second sees the biogas that was generated in the first process converted into carbon dioxide and hydrogen, and the third sees oxygen introduced and mixed with the carbon dioxide and hydrogen to generate heat and electricity.
According to the people behind the technology, the “toxicity” of the waste is depleted via the process — what’s left over can then be interred in a landfill.
“The idea behind the project is to show that it is possible to connect these processes together — starting with olive oil waste — and end up with electrical energy,” she concludes.
Given that the waste produced via conventional olive oil production often contains a notable amount of pesticides, this process has some significant upside to it despite the associated costs.
Image Credit: KTH
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