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From Waste Stream to Revenue Stream

Wed, 01/21/2009 - 10:01am
Karen Langhauser, Editor-in-Chief

New oil extraction technology from Renewable BioSystems can convert food waste into biofuel feedstock.

The food manufacturing industry is no stranger to the concept of waste reduction or reuse. For decades, the edible byproducts from food plants have been used for animal feed and land application. However, traditional recycling methods, besides producing only limited revenue for food manufacturers, can be restrictive to certain wastes with certain nutrient contents; which can leave manufacturers with significant waste left over that will require a cost for disposal.

Talk of sustainability is everywhere. In a tightening economy, where every penny counts, any opportunity for manufacturers to conserve, recycle or become more efficient represents a cost savings that is necessary for survival. The problem, however, with large scale discussions of sustainability, is that they often don't contain tangible or timely solutions.

Renewable BioSystems LLC (RBL) has stepped up to the plate and presented food manufacturers with a solution that could potentially change the face of waste management. The Fairfield, NJ-based company, which is an independent spin-off from Control & Power Systems Inc., has licensed the North American rights to manufacture and market a new technology from Agritec Systems Ltd. of Great Longstone, Derbyshire, England.

The technology
RBL's oil extraction machine can process up to 15 metric tons per hour of virtually any type of organic waste, including food processing and supermarket waste, offal from meat processing, DAF sludge, and fish residuals. Put simply, the machine mechanically extracts a percentage of the waste into oil, which can be collected and further processed into ASTM-certified biodiesel or combusted to generate electricity.

The machine also extracts and separates water and solids from the waste stream, which can then be more efficiently transported for compost or disposal.

"We are finding great interest in the oil extraction technology across a broad spectrum of customers but especially from livestock processing plants as a means of more economically disposing of their DAF sludge. We can actually create a value stream from the DAF sludge, for which plants now pay to have hauled away," says Peter Behrle, CEO of RBL.

How it works
The oil extraction machines are typically placed inside a plant, although depending on climate, can also be designed for outdoor use. Sizes vary according to the user's demand and units can process anywhere from two to 15 metric tons per hour of organic material. All units offer small footprints and potential portability.

Waste material enters the oil extraction machine via an intake hopper and is macerated to a uniform slurry. The slurry is first steam heated in a kettle, and then cooked in an inline cooker. The product then enters the separation process, facilitated by a highly specialized three-phase decanter centrifuge. The centrifuge separates the slurry into three components: oil, solid and wastewater. All three components are sent to separate receiving/storage tanks.

Applications
The oil extraction machine has applications in all types of food plants, especially those producing waste streams with large percentages of oil, such as poultry or pastry. In addition, the machines have great potential for other livestock processors, composters, oil seed crushers, renderers, algae producers and at landfills.

The extraction technology already has a track record of success overseas. In early 2007, a machine was purchased and installed at a Cranswick Fine Foods pork processing facility in Hull, England. Cranswick, one of the largest pork processors in the United Kingdom, is producing oil at a rate of 18 percent of offal processed. The company is successfully selling the high quality oil directly to a Brocklesby, a biodiesel processor in East Yorkshire.

Besides the economic benefits and return on investment, the installation is beneficial to the social image of Cranswick, as the company prides itself in demonstrating high environmental standards, and even has a portion of its equity owned by "green investors."

Food & fuel
Perhaps the most enticing part of this oil extraction machine is its implications towards a profitable, symbiotic relationship between food manufacturers and alternative fuel processors. As both industries compete for soy and corn – for use as animal feed for poultry/livestock producers and as a feedstock for biofuel producers – prices are rising and both industries are feeling the pinch.

RBL's oil extraction technology will not only create an alternate feedstock for biodiesel, but will enable food manufacturers to simultaneously lessen their waste streams, as well as profit from them.

"Introducing a technology that can create biodiesel feedstocks from waste streams will not only help biodiesel producers meet the government's RFS mandates, but will also lessen the competition between the biodiesel industry and food," says Behrle.

When it comes to biodiesel, the quality of the fuel is of utmost importance. The oil extracted from food waste using RBL's technology has proven to produce high quality biodiesel, which can be easily converted into on-spec fuel. In addition, the energy costs of extracting the oil using this machine is estimated to be 20 percent that of traditional rendering.

The technology also has implications in ethanol production. Distiller's dried grain, which is a byproduct of the dry mill ethanol extraction process, contains oil that can be extracted by an RBL machine. A 100 million gallon per year dry mill ethanol production plant can produce up to 10 million gallons of corn oil per year and this corn oil can then be sold to biodiesel producers.

Other benefits
Moisture content and storability can make or break a byproduct's potential for animal feed or land application. Wetter wastes present spoilage and transportation obstacles for food processors and farmers. Using the RBL technology to extract oil and water from byproducts prior to them leaving the food plant can boast profitability and effectiveness of organic waste when directed towards animal feed or fertilizer.

Additionally, the technology has applications in cellulosic ethanol production – producing ethanol from non-edible plant parts – which has been touted as "the next step in ethanol production." One benefit of cellulosic ethanol production is that it can use municipal solid waste as a feedstock. The RBL oil extraction equipment can be utilized in the pre-treatment process that this waste needs to undergo initially, extracting the oil and water.

Options
In today's tight economy, it is understandable that not all companies are in a position to make capital investments, which is why RBL offers a great deal of financial flexibility when dealing with potential customers. Customers have the option to purchase or lease the oil extraction equipment. In addition, RBL offers options under which RBL will actually own and operate the equipment at a specific plant site, and revenue can be shared with the host customer.

Conclusion
Renewable BioSystem's oil extraction technology offers food manufacturers, as well as a multitude of other industries, a new way of looking at their waste streams. What once was costly to both manufacturers and the environment, can now simultaneously produce a new source of revenue and an alternate fuel feedstock.

Technology such as this will aid food manufacturers in their ongoing efforts to evaluate and redesign their systems to make the best possible use of all resources and make tangible strides towards true sustainability.

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