Biodiesel Fuel From Waste Oils? Enzyme Technology Could Revolutionise Biodiesel

Editor: Dominik Stephan

A new enzymatic reaction can convert waste oils to biodiesel, but producers first need to re-fit their plants to run the enzymatic process. Now, an engineering firm that specialises in worldwide biodiesel plant projects, believes it is a good investment.

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Research laboratory at Novozymes
Research laboratory at Novozymes
(Picture: Novozymes)

Copenhagen/Denmark – Danish enzymes engineering experts Novozyme just announced the market launch of its Eversa technology, the first commercially available enzymatic solution to make biodiesel from waste oils.

The fundamental reaction converts waste oils into biodiesel, helping producers to reduce their raw material costs. These waste oils are typically cooking oils generated by commercial canteens, factories and fast-food restaurants, and other lower grade oils.

Payback Time for Biodiesel Producers

Now engineering firm Desmet Ballestra provides the technology and services needed to process oil seeds into modified, finished products. The firm has decades of experience building biodiesel plants around the globe, with biodiesel comprising around 15-20 % of their current turnover in oils and fats related technologies. In spite of the sizable task involved in modifying existing plants, which are currently operating using the chemical conversion processes, Desmet Ballestra believes that enzymatic processing will prove popular with biodiesel producers.

“The enzymatic process is simple and does not need much pre-treatment. It is the best alternative for modifying existing plants to enable them to incorporate difficult-to-convert oils,” says Marc Kellens, Group Technical Director at Desmet Ballestra.

More Flexible Feedstock Choices For Biodiesel

Until now, biodiesel has been a product created by converting refined oils into diesel fuel. Biodiesel has helped reduce dependence on gasoline and other fossil fuels, but the feedstocks required have been exceptionally expensive until now.

“In conventional plants, 80 to 85 % of the costs of biodiesel are linked to feedstock cost. So the more you are able to convert a cheaper feedstock into biodiesel, the more profitable the business is,” says Marc Kellens. “The enzymatic process makes it possible to convert waste oils into biodiesel with relatively low capital expenditure by retrofitting a plant.”

More direct, more profitable

The biodiesel business is sensitive to the price of vegetable oils, and the cost of waste oils as a feedstock is significantly lower than refined oils. Kellens believes the enzymatic process is a more direct and less complicated one and will initially be used as an add-on to the existing biodiesel market to make use of these cheaper waste oils.

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