Portuguese tech institute to produce advanced biofuels from tree-pruning-waste

Around 360,000 hectares of the land area are olive groves, while 178,000 hectares are vineyards and 45,000 are used for producing fresh fruit.

This article is part of our special report Bioeconomy in the CAP’s nine objectives.

This article is also available in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

A project to use the waste from pruning vines and fruit trees to produce advanced biofuel is being developed at the BLC3 Campus of Technology and Innovation in Oliveira do Hospital, the campus president said. EURACTIV’s partner Lusa.pt reports.

The BLC3 association “is developing a circular economy project in the agricultural sector, where it aims to use the waste from agricultural activities, such as pruning waste from olive trees, vines and other fruit trees” to “produce advanced biofuel,” the president of the BLC3 Technology and Innovation Campus, João Nunes, told Lusa news agency.

The project, “with the potential application also to the forestry sector”, also recommends that “waste from crops” be used in the production of biofuel.

Production will be conducted “in an efficient way and with carbon emission levels much lower than from fossils”, João Nunes highlighted.

The advanced biofuel produced by this method is “similar and equivalent to agricultural diesel”. “Agriculture is very important for the economy, and if we can integrate the efficient use of resources, it has a potential for growth, in terms of competitiveness”, the president continued.

In Portugal “we have 3.6 million hectares of agriculture (39.5% of the total land area), with more than 360,000 farms”, which represents an average of 10 hectares per farm.

With this average farm size, the sector is naturally “not very competitive in terms of scale” and this has “an impact on the use of resources and carbon emissions”.

Around 360,000 hectares of the land area are olive groves, while 178,000 hectares are vineyards and 45,000 are used for producing fresh fruit. João Nunes said these generate “a high amount of biomass waste” and explained that “we could be talking about one million tons of waste annually in these sectors alone”.

However, this figure is “always difficult to quantify because it depends on agricultural production itself”.

“Agricultural cultivation systems, which generate high quantities of biomass, have the potential and interest to produce their fuel” to use in their machinery, João Nunes concluded.

The BLC3 Campus of Technology and Innovation is a non-profit association, founded in 2010. It is a “new model of development of research activities and technological intensification of excellence, incubation of ideas and companies, and support to the economic fabric in inland and rural regions”.

It is the only organisation in Portugal created for the development and industrialisation of biorefineries (second and third generations), the bioeconomy and ‘smart regions’, with a focus on the circular economy, according to the BLC3 website.

It should be noted that the Collaborative Laboratory (CoLab) for the Circular Economy, which was very recently based at its Campus in Oliveira do Hospital, develops activities across three technological platforms. These include industrial biotechnology, sustainable separation processes and green chemistry, as well as ecodesign.

CoLab will be “a structure of excellence in an interior region with capacity for leadership and Portuguese representation in the circular economy at the international level”.

[Edited by Daniel Eck]

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