`New Phase for Greek Olive Mills - Olive Oil Times

New Phase for Greek Olive Mills

Jul. 9, 2012
Costas Vasilopoulos

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Olive oil mills in Greece are suf­fer­ing dur­ing the cur­rent finan­cial cri­sis and the per­ma­nent path­o­genic prob­lems of the indus­try in the coun­try.

A new envi­ron­men­tal law as of April 2012, will make things worse, at least for the 2,300 olive mills — more than half the mills in Greece — still using the three-phase” pro­duc­tion sys­tem.

While the major­ity of the oil mills are for now relieved from the oblig­a­tion to acquire spe­cial envi­ron­men­tal per­mis­sions, the leg­is­la­tion imposes some unreach­able lim­its for the organic load” of the liq­uid residue of these three-phase pro­duc­tion sys­tems.

The most com­mon index of the organic load is BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) which is the amount of oxy­gen needed in a bio­chem­i­cal process to neu­tral­ize the organic mate­ri­als. The big­ger the BOD value, the larger the quan­ti­ties of nitro­gen and phos­pho­rus con­tained in the liq­uid waste.

Now, the BOD is required to be thou­sands of times less than before, which is prac­ti­cally impos­si­ble to achieve with the cur­rent pro­ce­dure of reduc­ing the organic load using lime. The tech­nol­ogy that can yield such low organic loads does exist but its high cost auto­mat­i­cally puts off any­one inter­ested.


So, three-phase mills can­not pipe their liq­uid waste to any kind of water for­ma­tion, let it be a river, a stream, a pond, or the sea itself. The only alter­na­tive is to lay the waste in cus­tom-made reser­voirs and evap­o­rate or purify it enough to be used for irri­ga­tion.

Both these solu­tions have seri­ous dis­ad­van­tages, with high costs and doubt­ful out­comes being the most promi­nent ones, not to men­tion pro­duc­ers have to obtain per­mits from the water depart­ment after con­vinc­ing them that the reser­voir is imper­me­able and that the water is safe for irri­ga­tion.

All in all, three-phase mills are in a dif­fi­cult posi­tion, but is it prefer­able to turn to the two-phase pro­duc­tion method or not?

An aver­age oil mill in Greece is capa­ble of pro­cess­ing 50 tons of olive dru­pes per day to pro­duce about 10 tons of olive oil. The fol­low­ing table illus­trates some use­ful fig­ures:

Oil mill own­ers have been reluc­tant to switch to the newer sys­tems, pre­fer­ring to stick with the seem­ingly higher income they get when sell­ing the three-phase pomace (€37,500 com­pared to €28,800 for the pulp), while the data shows that the two-phase oper­a­tion mode is indeed more prof­itable.

And while it’s true that the two-phase pulp con­tains a lot of water, and pro­cess­ing it at the refiner­ies requires large amounts of energy that could put under ques­tion the advan­tage of energy bal­ance of the two-phase mills, this is not some­thing that would con­cern the mill own­ers.

The new sea­son start­ing in October will be cru­cial; the politi­cians and the state bureau­crats will choose how much pres­sure to put on the oil mills, and the mill own­ers will choose whether they can play along or not.

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