Olive Oil Waste Fuels Spanish Power Plant and Palestinian Startup

A new plant will work to counteract the negative impacts of olive by-products in the region while developing a reliable substitute for fossil fuel.

By Pia Koh
Jan. 29, 2020 08:32 UTC

Last week, a renew­able energy com­pany and pulp mill oper­a­tor Ence Energia y Celulosa SA announced that it would be open­ing a new 50-megawatt bio­mass power plant in Puertollano, Spain.

The plant is pro­jected to con­sume around 238,000 tons of bio­mass each year, with olive pomace, vine shoots, olive leaves, and agri­cul­tural remains act­ing as its pri­mary fuel.

The amount of heat pro­duced by olive jifit is higher than ordi­nary fire­wood and cheaper than petro­leum prod­ucts.- Tamer Abo Motlaq, Olive Jifit Project

Ence has put about €100 mil­lion ($111 mil­lion) toward their new project with the hopes of reduc­ing the unreg­u­lated burn­ing of agri­cul­tural stub­ble in Spain.

The com­pany esti­mates that, once fully oper­a­tional, the facil­ity will be capa­ble of pro­duc­ing enough elec­tric­ity to pro­vide for the con­sump­tion of over 60,000 peo­ple each year.

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The waste pro­duced by olive oil extrac­tion is far from neg­li­gi­ble, not only in Spain but world­wide.

In a study pub­lished last month in EcoMENA, author Catherine Hansen dis­cusses the two envi­ron­men­tally threat­en­ing byprod­ucts of oil extrac­tion: olive press cake (the solid waste) and olive-mill waste­water.

Hansen wrote that the efflu­ents from olive oil pro­duc­tion con­tain phe­nols, a poi­so­nous caus­tic crys­talline com­pound which, unless dis­posed of prop­erly, can result in seri­ous envi­ron­men­tal dam­age.”

There is no gen­eral pol­icy for dis­posal of this waste in the olive oil-pro­duc­ing nations around the world,” she added.

This results in incon­sis­tent mon­i­tor­ing and non-uni­form guide­lines across these regions. Thus, Ence’s new plant will work to coun­ter­act the neg­a­tive impacts of olive by-prod­ucts in the region, while devel­op­ing a reli­able sub­sti­tute for fos­sil fuel.

The Olive Jifit Project

Ence is not the only com­pany attempt­ing to repur­pose pomace as clean energy in recent months.

One Palestinian startup, the Olive Jifit Project, con­verts olive jifit (solid waste byprod­ucts more com­monly called pomace) into fuel pel­lets used for power gen­er­a­tion, poul­try farm­ing and home heat­ing.

The Gaza City-based group was founded by civil engi­neer­ing grad­u­ates Tamer Abo Motlaq, 26, Usama Qudaih, 24, and Khaled Abo Motlaq, 24, after they entered their startup idea in a Danish Church Aid con­test and won $5,000 in micro-fund­ing.

Speaking with Olive Oil Times, Motlaq explains that there is no scarcity of pomace in the region. In the Gaza Strip alone, there are around 30 olive presses which pro­duce about 150,000 tons of jifit annu­ally,” he said.

The group is cur­rently coor­di­nat­ing with presses in the Absan Alkabira munic­i­pal­ity, in south­east­ern Gaza. Motlaq antic­i­pates a steady rise in the demand for jifit in the com­ing years.

The amount of heat pro­duced by olive jifit is higher than ordi­nary fire­wood and cheaper than petro­leum prod­ucts,” he said. Since [jifit] is rub­bish, the per­cent­age of prof­its is high com­pared to other prod­ucts.”

Motlaq hopes to con­tinue build­ing on his work in bioen­ergy by find­ing more cheap, effi­cient and resource­ful ways to repur­pose waste prod­ucts.


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