In a context in which Europe is moving towards a decarbonized economy, and in which concepts such as sustainability and the reuse of raw materials are increasingly penetrating the population more deeply, initiatives that contribute to deepening these objectives are essential . This is the case of the community project Life Superbiodiesel, which, coordinated by the Technological Institute of Children’s Products and Leisure (Aiju) and with partners such as, for example, the company Cepsa, is pursuing the development of a pilot plant that will produce five tons per year of Biodiesel made from animal fats. The objective is to take advantage of the waste coming from the tanning companies to, from there, develop an improved fuel that, in addition to improving the performance of the engines, reduces their emissions.
Europe annually manages 17 million tonnes of animal by-products, which, in turn, generate 2.85 million tonnes of animal fat, a significant part of which is disposed of in landfills or through incineration processes. This situation is a serious problem for both the climate and the environment, since they often contain harmful substances. Starting from this base, and with the aim of turning a conflict into an opportunity, the project financed by the Life program of the European Union was born, in which apart from Aiju and Cepsa, the company Organovac, the Madrid Institute of Studies are involved. Advanced (Imdea), the Technological Institute of Footwear and Related (Inescop), the Institute of Chemical Technology (Itq-Csic) and the University of Murcia.
From Aiju, based in the Alicante municipality of Ibi, the coordinator of the initiative, Rubén Beneito, explains that “the objective is to develop, test and demonstrate a novel production of biodiesel from residual animal fats, based on supercritical technology and heterogeneous catalysts ”.
One of the advantages of this project, in addition to the production of high added value biodiesel from animal fat, is the potential reduction of 80% of the carbon footprint over conventional diesels and 35% compared to first generation biodiesel . Hence, Beneito emphasizes that, “in addition to valorizing a waste of low commercial value, we contribute to reduce emissions and deforestation associated with biodiesel production approaches, and we replace mineral diesel in transport vehicles, ultimately contributing to to the mitigation of climate change ”.
The project is being developed at a time when the demand for biodiesel is increasingly high, also as a result of the pressure that the community authorities are exerting to evolve towards a fleet of vehicles that are less and less polluting. According to official data from the National Markets and Competition Commission, sales of this type of fuel in Spain have more than doubled in the last five years, from 753,144 cubic meters to 1,645,202.
According to Carlos Alberto Prieto, coordinator of the refining and biofuel department at Cepsa’s research center, “we have opted for this project at a time when 8% of consumption corresponds to biofuels, but with very broad growth prospects. Fossil fuels are on the decline, taking into account that the European Union’s commitment is to achieve a decarbonized economy by 2050 ».
For Prieto, the virtues of the project are many. “On the one hand, we will get a more advanced and higher quality biofuel, as well as cleaner. On the other hand, we take advantage of waste that went to the landfill for its production, avoiding the use of energy crops such as soybeans or palm, which is where the current biodiesel is generated, “he says.
The pilot plant, which will produce five tons of fuel per year, will be a good touch test for Cepsa to incorporate the new product into its processes on a more industrial scale.
Another leg of the project is the Organovac company, from Lorca, in Murcia, dedicated to the production of fertilizers of animal origin. According to its manager, Gabriel Molina, “we collect the raw material from tanning, that is, the fat that is stuck to the hides and that previously went to landfills. What we do is revalue this by-product, which can now also be used to make a more ecological biodiesel, since no glycerin will be generated in the process. They are all advantages.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.