- Pioneering unique feedstock pretreatment technology
- FOGs are costing the water industry in excess of £15m
- A ready-to-go advanced biofuels solution for market
BioDie2020 focuses on the conversion of waste raw materials in to a sustainable feedstock supply for biodiesel production. We propose a break-through, compliant and beneficial pathway to maximise the use of new types of difficult wastes on a large scale for the first time on the advanced biodiesel market.
In 2012, Argent Energy & BDI pioneered a unique feedstock pre-treatment technology, taking the conversion of waste to biodiesel to a completely new level; through the recovery and processing of unconventional and highly degraded raw materials. These raw materials include oils and fats recovered from the sewerage network, as well as grease trap wastes and fatty/oily food wastes. An overview of the advanced technology and business journeys leading up to this project is given in Section 1.4.1, including the build and commissioning of a new Argent biodiesel plant at Stanlow, UK, which forms the baseline of the BioDie2020 business case.
Impacts on the water industry
Unconventional and highly degraded oils and fats are most commonly derived from the cooking or preparation of food products in the home, catering/food service establishments or food manufacturing industries. Residual fats, oils and greases from these types of premises can be disposed of down the drain/sink and ultimately to the sewer; subsequently causing major problems for Water Utility Companies. These types of oils and fats are commonly referred to throughout the water industry as FOG (fats, oils and grease).
These types of oils and fats are commonly referred to throughout the water industry as FOG (fats, oils and grease).
FOG is a major issue for Water companies as grease and fat congeal and accumulate on the walls of the sewer; reducing the sewers capacity, restricting the flow of wastewater and sewage, and subsequently causing blockages. It is well reported that in the UK alone there are over 175,000 sewer blockages every year caused by FOG, costing the Water Industry in excess of £15 million (€20 million) per year.
However, considering reports from individual water companies, Argent estimates that the annual cost to the UKs water industry is likely to be nearly 4 times that figure; in the region of £60 million. Put simply, the water industry must pay £1 to clean up FOG for every person living within the UK. Extrapolated to Europe, with a population of over 500 million, removal and clean-up of FOG is estimated to cost EU Water Companies at least €150 million, however this figure is more likely to be closer to €350 million.
Social and environmental problems can also be caused by the accumulation of FOG. Blocked sewers can cause wastewater and sewage to back up and overflow into roads and properties, causing major disruptions to the public and businesses; as well as increasing the need for remedial and sewer maintenance works. Sewer overflows can present serious environmental, health and socio-economic concerns, such as damage to biodiversity due to depleted oxygen levels in the receiving waters, in addition to polluting groundwater and reducing water quality. The flooding of homes and businesses can be a risk to public health due to exposure to pathogens such as E. Coli or Leptospira that are present in sewage and some wastewaters.
Market & business opportunities
The economic viability of biofuels depends primarily on the sustainability and price of raw materials vs current oil prices. Clearly, today’s low oil prices of ~$50/ barrel mean that biofuels from sources such as virgin vegetable oils are less feasible options. Renewable fuels such as bioethanol and biodiesel become increasingly viable by using lower-cost waste feedstocks and via the EU member-state Biofuel incentives in place in each country.
Large-scale production and reliance on biofuels has increased conventional feedstock demand and prices (this has been seen with the used cooking oil collection and brokerage businesses in recent years). Subsequently global market shifts are required to develop and expand this market further. As a result, recent technical advances in the production of advanced biofuels from waste oils and fats and cellulosic residues have made a broader range of non-food based biomass accessible (e.g. agriculture, forestry, food industry wastes, effluents and sludges and even FOG recovered from the sewer). This in turn addresses the biofuel market sustainability issues related to the food vs feed debate and Land-Use-Change (LUC) aspects.
A ready-to-go solution
As mentioned above, the demonstration resource for BioDie2020 is fats, oils and greases (FOGs) which accumulate and are recovered from the UK waste water industry, as well as other oily and fatty grease trap or food wastes.
These wastes are typically extremely degraded, contaminated, and high in Free Fatty Acid (FFA) content meaning that they are subsequently challenging to process. FOGs that accumulate in the sewerage network not only cost waste water companies around Europe hundreds of millions of euros every year to remove, but can also cause serious environmental, health and safety issues such as flooding and pollution incidents.
FOG removed from the sewer must be disposed of; this is typically either to landfill, which is costly, recirculated back into the sewerage network, or fed into Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants, where it can cause a number of operational issues and may ultimately inhibit digestion.
BioDie2020 is a ready-to-go biofuels solution, which will enable the use of challenging but highly sustainable raw materials, opening up the next advanced biofuels pathway to market.
First in kind
BioDie2020 directly fits the critical gap where our technological maturity meets direct market need for FOG collection and reuse, as well as the business opportunity to recover low cost feedstock for biofuel conversion.
The biofuels solution proposed in this project aims to bring to market a robust, first in kind, large-scale solution which will provide the transport and energy sector with a market-ready, drop-in solution to the sustainable feedstock-to-biofuels validation problem.
We will reach the market in this project by testing high quality biodiesel produced from new waste oils and fat feedstocks in captive bus fleet field trials.