3 August 2006

Ontario: portable biorefenery turning farm waste into bio-oil

A new portable technology unveiled yesterday converts farming waste into bioproducts and renewable energy in the form of fuels, pharmaceuticals and even food additives.

Through a chemical process called pyrolysis, materials such as raw sugar cane, tobacco, rice straw and coffee husks are processed by a machine, decomposed and turned into bio-oil.

“Agriculture today needs all the help it can get,” said Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Joe Preston at the University of Western Ontario unveiling.

“We’ve got challenges in agriculture right now,” said Ontario Labour Minister Steve Peters, the MPP for the same riding. “Why not use tobacco as feedstock for bio-oils?”

The first prototype of the Fast Pyrolysis Machine, developed by professors Franco Berruti, Cedric Briens and engineering students, can further process liquid products into fuels and other products, including flavour for barbecue sauces and browning agents for meat.

The solid residues can be used for fertilizer.

The product is part of a joint venture between the university and Agri-Therm Ltd., an equipment manufacturer of bio-oils and biomass products.

“It was our first and only choice,”Jim Weaver, vice-president of Agri-Therm, said of working with Western. “They have a very excellent engineering school.”

Agri-Therm and Western are pursuing a partnership with tobacco farmers to extract nicotine for pharmaceutical uses, including nicotine patches and natural pesticides.

Ten tonnes of waste will produce 60 per cent bio-oil and 20 per cent gas, depending on temperature and product used, he said.

Egypt and Mexico have expressed interest in the technology to reduce pollution and help farmers, Weaver said.

(Cf. news of Oct. 07, 2004.)

Source: London Free Press July 29, 2006.

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