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Demonstration of a multi-feedstock sustainable biodiesel production scheme integrating an on-site by-products energy valorisation system (INTEGRAL-B)
Start date: Jan 1, 2009, End date: Dec 31, 2011 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background Biodiesel has been produced on an industrial scale since 1992 in the EU and its production has continuously increased due to the high price of crude oil and the national policies aimed at CO2 emissions reduction. In 2005, 3 184 000 tonnes of biodiesel were produced. Although biodiesel is a renewable fuel, it is associated with high social and environmental costs, mainly owing to the large amounts of energy consumed in the production and transport of the biodiesel main feedstock, oily seeds. As a result, the process lifecycle has a poor energy and CO2 balance. Moreover, current biodiesel production fails to provide a solution for the large quantities of glycerine by-product produced. Given that the EU intended to increase the production of biodiesel to up to 8 million tonnes per year by 2010, it is clear that at the time of the project’s launch it was urgent to redefine the production processes associated with the manufacture of biodiesel. (Around 800 000 tonnes of glycerine are produced in Europe every year alone, but the global consumption of the product is estimated to be around 500 000 tonnes). Objectives The main goal of the INTEGRAL-B project was to provide an eco-efficient solution for biodiesel production and thus help tackle climate change. This goal would be reached by: Demonstrating a biodiesel production scheme that achieves a: - very high conversion rate of raw materials into energy in its different forms (biofuel, heat and electricity); - significant reduction of wastes; - dramatically improved CO2 and energy balances associated to the production of biodiesel; - more sustainable model for biodiesel production. Validating the model in a prototype. Assessing the environmental and economical benefits of this improved biodiesel production scheme compared with the traditional one. Disseminating the project results within the industry and among the general public to clearly detach the notion of integrated, sustainable biodiesel production from that of the conventional production model – with the ultimate goal of encouraging consumers to use fuels produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Specific objectives included: Biodiesel process integration: the project aimed to demonstrate the environmentally sustainable production of biodiesel through the integration of two systems, namely a facility to produce biogas and a reciprocating engine adapted to work with a mix of glycerine and biogas. This integration will enable a drastic reduction of the environmental impacts associated with the production of biodiesel. Validation of biogas production from feedstock wastes and low-grade glycerine: the project aimed to integrate an anaerobic digestion system in the biodiesel plant in order to extract the maximal energetic potential from the different raw materials – i.e, plant residues, waste oil and glycerine by-product. Validation of glycerine co-product combustion: the project aimed to demonstrate and validate the operation of a reciprocating engine that employs glycerine as fuel, and by extension, to promote the adoption of this technology by biodiesel producers as an economical, environmentally friendly means of disposing the glycerine by-product and producing energy onsite. Results The INTEGRAL-B project demonstrated the possibility of improving the economic and environmental sustainability of biodiesel production plants by the onsite valorisation of waste and by-products generated in the preparation of the raw materials and the production process itself, with special attention to glycerine. In particular, the Integral-B project designed and tested a new system based on using waste from the raw material for biodiesel production, such as waste from the cleaning of the vegetable oils, and bio-wastes from the catering facilities where the cooking oils are collected. These wastes are mixed and an onsite integration of anaerobic digestion system transforms the organic waste into biogas. The biogas is burned with an alternative engine specially adapted for using the biogas as fuel. The heat is used to purify the glycerine and the electricity is used in the biodiesel plant. The purified glycerine can be used in small quantities in the engine and fed into the anaerobic digestion in moderate quantities. The purified glycerine can also be sold as a raw material used in other sectors. The new proposed model uses raw materials more efficiently, achieves an improved energy balance and obtains stable economic benefits from produced glycerine. The project Integral-B reinforces EU guidelines on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. The environmental performance of the Integral-B model was compared with ‘standard catering biowaste management model’ (based on composting and landfilling) by using a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) according to the ISO 14041 standards. The scenario proposed by Integral-B showed lower environmental impact for every category than the standard scenario. In fact, the Global Warming Potential for Integral-B system was 100 times lower than that calculated for the reference biowaste management system. From the economic point of view, Integral-B model also outperforms standard biowaste management system. Both scenarios showed negative benefits but Integral-B is the more favourable. The average benefit is 35% less negative in scenario Integral-B. This analysis leads to the conclusion that a tax will be necessary to finance these activities. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).

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