`Power Plant in Spain Fueled by Olive Oil Waste

Production

Power Plant in Spain Fueled by Olive Oil Waste

Feb. 9, 2015
By Sukhsatej Batra

Recent News

Although in its ini­tial stage, the new power plant in Andalu­cia, Spain is gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­ity, sav­ing the envi­ron­ment from harm­ful tox­ins, and pre­serv­ing land­fill space by using waste from olive oil pro­duc­tion as fuel.

Funded by the Euro­pean Union with part­ners from the United King­dom, Swe­den, Spain and Greece, the pro­to­type power plant or Bio­gas2PEM- FC project, is the prod­uct of research car­ried out at the KTH Royal Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Stock­holm, Swe­den in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Pow­er­Cell, a Nordic clean­tech com­pany that is a leader in fuel cell tech­nol­ogy.

Devel­op­ment of the Bio­gas2PEM- FC project took two years to com­plete. The first pro­to­type power plant, installed in an olive oil pro­duc­tion facil­ity oper­ated by coop­er­a­tive of San Isidro de Loja, Granada, ful­fills its aim of pro­duc­ing power from waste cre­ated dur­ing olive oil pro­duc­tion.

Carina Lager­gren, lead researcher of the project at KTH Royal Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy empha­sized that the most impor­tant thing was find­ing a solu­tion for all of the toxic waste left­over from olive oil pro­duc­tion.”

Olive oil waste is toxic for the envi­ron­ment; it is acidic, highly saline and con­tains pes­ti­cides, toxic organic com­pounds and other haz­ardous con­t­a­m­i­nants. Cur­rent dis­posal method of dump­ing olive waste into sludge pits is poten­tially harm­ful for the envi­ron­ment as the tox­ins can leach into the sur­round­ings.

Instead of dump­ing olive oil waste into sludge pits, the esti­mated 30 mil­lion cubic meters of waste­water pro­duced annu­ally by olive oil mills could be used for bio­gas pro­duc­tion, accord­ing to Per Ekdunge, project coor­di­na­tor and vice pres­i­dent of Pow­er­Cell.

Advertisement

Carina Lagergren explained the olive oil project to President Barack Obama in 2013. (Photo: David Callahan)

The new power plant uses olive oil waste to pro­duce clean” energy in a three-step process.

Olive oil waste first under­goes diges­tion by anaer­o­bic bac­te­ria to pro­duce bio­gas, which con­sists of methane, car­bon diox­ide and sul­fur com­pounds. In the sec­ond phase, a reformer con­verts the bio­gas into car­bon diox­ide and hydro­gen, which in the third and final stage, are con­verted by the fuel cells into heat and elec­tric­ity with the addi­tion of oxy­gen.

The final byprod­uct is toxic-free waste that can be safely dis­posed in land­fills with­out con­cern of leach­ing tox­ins.

Although expen­sive, far from per­fect and still in its ini­tial test­ing, the plant pro­duces 1 kW of power. There are plans to pro­duce up to 200 kW of power that would sup­ply 50 per­cent of the pro­cess­ing plant’s energy needs, explained Lager­gren.

Other plans for this project include ways of decreas­ing costs and increas­ing effi­ciency of the pro­to­type.

Use of the tech­nol­ogy to pro­duce clean energy from other agri­cul­tural waste is also pos­si­ble, accord­ing to Ekdunge. This con­cept greatly inter­ested U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama when he vis­ited the KTH Royal Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in 2013 while the project was still under research.


Related News