Wastes, Bioprocessing and Biofuels

  •  Aviation fuel is to be produced from garbage.
  • Biodiesel can be produced from crops fertiliser by composted industrial and municipal wastes.
  • Compost and putting to land locks up Carbon and saves mineral fertilisers.

By Bill Butterworth

25 April 15


Photosynthetic Carbon Capture and Storage in Soils  (PCCSS) or, in common sense language, using "wastes" as fertilisers can be a safe and sustainable way of producing biofuels.

Photosynthetic Carbon Capture and Storage in Soils (PCCSS) or, in common sense language, using “wastes” as fertilisers can be a safe and sustainable way of producing biofuels.

Production of biofuels can be achieved in a number of different ways.  Some of those ways are genuinely sustainable, some are not. Some are new and really hopeful of success, some are long established and proven. In this short piece, I will look at some of the more positive options.

As the human race becomes more sophisticated, we progress to like things in discrete, easily visible boxes as with a big, bright, new, shining factory. On 16 April 2014, Solena Fuels and British Airways committed themselves to building the world’s first facility to convert landfill waste into jet fuel. One thousand construction workers, the release said, will be hired to build the facility which is due to be completed in 2017, creating up to 150 permanent jobs. This ground-breaking fuel project, claims their press release, is set to revolutionise the production of sustainable aviation fuel.  Approximately 575,000 tonnes of post-recycled waste, normally destined for landfill or incineration, will instead be converted into 120,000 tonnes of clean burning liquid including 50,000 tonnes per annum of the jet fuel produced at market competitive rates.  The press release did not say what will happen to the other 455,000 tonnes (575,000 minus 120,000). Will it all work? Probably.  Will it have limitations? Probably.

There is another, long established and proven option, apparently somewhat less dramatic but we would do well not to forget it.

The PowerPoint diagram at the top of this piece shows the process of bioprocessing wastes by Deep Clamp composting, producing an organic fertiliser to grow crops, such as oil seed rape in Europe (or, in hotter countries, oil palm or Jatropha) which produce oil-bearing seeds which can be crushed to produce an oil which can be used direct into a diesel engine or processed to produce bio-diesel. More details available in “Reversing Global warming for profit” by Bill Butterworth published by MX Publishing and available from Amazon.

Both of these processes have their place. Clearly, the Solena/BA investment is targeted at processing wastes which would otherwise go to landfill and that has to be a good idea. Similarly the composting route.  What is the difference?

Where wastes can go to land, there are two major gains. Firstly, crops can be grown for food without using mineral fertilisers.  Bearing in mind that 1 tonne of Nitrogen nutrient in mineral fertilisers, made in a typical, modern, efficient USA factory, takes 21,000 kWh of electrical energy to manufacture and deliver, that is a good start. Secondly, as the diagram above shows, this route takes Carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and puts it as organic matter into the soil.

For more details on sustainability bin waste recycling and PCCSS (Photosynthetic Carbon Capture and Storage in Soils), refer to two of my books on the subject;

“How to make on-farm composting work”, 2010, MX Publishing, London.

“Reversing Global Warming for Profit”, 2010, MX Publishing, London.