About the Episode: This episode of the PSI Podcast focuses on the Bio-Energy/Waste sector. David Van Hek is joined by Saverio Danubio, a Pangea SI CO2 Negative and Sustainable Projects Developer and founder of Blue Wings Composting, about the different bio-energy sources and the energy you can gain from bio-waste.
About the Pangea SI Expert: This Pangea SI Expert has decided to focus his entire career on the valorization of the available waste resources by the utilization of bio-processes and now that he is an experienced Sustainable Solutions Specialist. He provides B2B and B2C services to subjects operating in the private and public, profit and non-profit sectors.
Pangea SI Expert: Well, I would say organic waste doesn’t exist really. It’s something humans created, but we are defining a natural product that we don’t still have the ability to process until it goes back to nature until it’s degraded to a natural element and we classify that as a waste. But my feeling is that very soon we will always classify this category of products as a leftover as residues, as organic matter as second-grade organic matter because they are finding more and more plays into modern bioprocessing.
And regarding biofuels and bioenergy sources in general, nature has a lot to give. There are many processes that can actually allow the production of a molecule that can be an alternative to ordinary fossil fuels.
We know, for example, that ethanol can somehow replace petrol in some countries like Brazil. It’s already common to have a double fuelled car that can work with petrol and also with ethanol. And it’s not only the ethanol, some other fermentation allow, for example, the production of butanol.
Interestingly, the same kind of microorganism and almost the same type of fermentation can also lead to the production of molecules that instead of giving you a biofuel can also give you an intermediate molecule for the production of bioplastics. So look at how versatile nature can be.
But coming back to biofuels, I would say that we all know the need for gas for bioenergy, for the energy production of this year, especially the latest months, can be produced by anaerobic digestion.
And if we navigate a little bit on the Internet, we can see how easy it can be to realize an anaerobic digester.
Ina very practical way the product can in this way reduce the impact of the city’s organic residues on the entire city, waste management and can control the pathogen and somehow safely treat these organic matter then at the end of the process we have something that we can directly burn for the energy production or where we can refine for multiple uses and the digest state that it is then a source of minerals and other nutrients for the soil or can be mixed with the other material and can become a fertile compost.
The concept of bioenergy in general can go even further because sometimes you don’t need to burn. You don’t need to burn to produce what is a form of energy. Thermal energy, for example, can be obtained from the composting activity of the wood waste lignocellulosic material. I have experience with some reactors called composting where more reactors that actually, in the process of converting the boot waste into a very fertile compost, they are subjected to a relatively high amount of energy generation.
What I did in my previous experience was install a heat exchange system and extract this heat that sometimes can bridge 7080 degrees, but ordinary conditions say 5060 and so extract this heat using a water recirculation system and in this way giving this thermal energy to the professional activity, like farmers with greenhouses that want to continue producing in the winter time and also like fish pools, for example, that needs to increase the water temperature or like those involved in the daily production that needs warm water for the milk processing. Or, you know, on another side it was useful for domestic use where people could do basic activities like laundry, like washing dishes and so on. So there are many different opportunities that can be actually obtained from the use of biological systems.
Pangea SI Expert: It’s a very large sector. For example, I see a combination of this thermal composting system that provides constant thermal energy with the anaerobic digester because maybe not everybody knows but anaerobic digestion needs a certain temperature to operate properly and all those people that make anaerobic digestion enthusiastically and then in the winter time if they are in Europe, it most likely did not produce gas anymore. The combination of this new biological process can lead to a better solution. Another important biofuel that I didn’t mention before is bio-diesel. This can be produced by insects and algae. Insects are an interesting biological model that can rapidly absorb the nutrients from the leftovers from different classes of organic matter. In this way, they can incorporate nutrients in the form of fat and proteins and can then, in optimal conditions, be repurposed in the feed market. In some cases, this organic matter is polluted. So, what do we do with that? We produce biodiesel out of insect oil and we can do the same with microalgae. Microalgae actually is an incredible source because they are allowing for the production of the third generation of biofuels.
Pangea SI Expert: It doesn’t involve a natural process, but it’s in a valuable transformation of the organic matter. Dry organic matter, like wood.
For example, it can be cooked in a closed system without oxygen at the control temperature, and in this way, all the matter inside the dry wood is cracked into little molecules that go apart in the form of gases that can be urgent. And methane in the form of liquids that can be called a bio-oil or something like this. In the solid form, we use a natural substrate and a starting material that is natural. Then, with the chemical physical process, we convert this natural material into other natural products that can then be viable for use in biofuels in biomaterials and in many other sectors. So it’s something that definitely should be considered.
Pangea SI Expert: The idea will be to always create a cycle with natural matter that is converted into biomolecules and is used by humans for any kind of purpose and then to close the circle, close the loop, but in some other cases like the situation that we are facing nowadays is that we have plastic everywhere in the oceans, in the land, and sometimes it’s not practical to have a reusable or an easy-to-recycle plastic because it’s too mixed or the conditions in that specific area do not convenience for this activity.
So the pyrolysis of the pyrolytic concept can be applied, somehow, to the plastic that can be reconverted to oil. As for the pyrolysis mentioned before, we can obtain a gas, a liquid, and a solid part and then the parameters can always be adjusted in a way that if the interest is more in the gas part then it can be produced a little bit more in that direction or in the other. And so this might be another option for new molecules production, new energy source production and also every now and then, the efficient recycling of plastic.
Pangea SI Expert: Well, I anticipated this because biofuels have been in the air for a couple of decades, but actually they’ll never take over because there was not the real convenience as competing with the food-grade source for the production of biofuels was not sustainable, was not logical, and was not convenient. But today, with the advancement of second Gen biofuels and third Gen biofuels, finally there is the perspective that biofuels can, in a relatively short time be commercially valid products for large consumption and it doesn’t matter if we see now many electric vehicles be launched and the word goes electric. We have millions of units working for transportation, energy numeration, for any other kind of professional productive use that is on our Earth. And it will take decades before we can replace all of them. So biofuels are still very needed and we have to encourage this kind of transition.
Pangea SI Expert: Today we have been discussing biofuel production but when you burn the biofuel, you reduce these molecules in the CO2, mostly in CO2 and CO2. We know it goes in the atmosphere. CO2 is a serious problem, but on the other side, CO2 is also very needed. It is necessary for the production, for example, of all the soda drinks and also in the draft beer that every pub serves and in the construction of biomolecules because they can be the base element for the construction can be the building block for the construction of many molecules.
So, CO2 is actually not only the problem we have today, but it’s an opportunity for the future we can, for example, think to recover the CO2 from the atmosphere with algae farming activity and in this way produce our biofuels. But I would say even more for those that are into the carbon credits market, you’ll see today it’s linked to a business that is more solid than before, so many companies will emerge and rely on the carbon credits as a source of business.
And, it’s a little bit off-topic, but I would say that we do not have to underestimate the power that the land can have in absorbing passively, passively the CO2, something that not many people know but the compost, but the compost we use for regenerating, for like integrating the soil has a CO2 capturing activity and also the biochemicals that are produced with the pyrolysis has a carbon attractant activity that is two or three times more capable to attract the CO2 for the quantity of char introduced in the soil. So new horizons are getting closer and I will be very glad if startups and also consolidated businesses started migrating in this direction.
“Insects are an interesting biological model that can rapidly absorb the nutrients from the leftovers from different classes of organic matter. In this way they can incorporate nutrients in the form of fat and proteins and can then, in the optimal conditions, be repurposed in the feed market.”
This Pangea SI Expert has deep knowledge and understanding of bio-waste to bio-energy. They have worked on bio-waste to bio-energy technologies for a range of companies and taken multiple roles such as R&D Scientist, Urban Designer and COO.
✔ The consultation on bio-waste inclusive of the case analysis and of solutions deployment.
✔ The organization and the supervision of waste-sorting educational programs
✔ Founder of Blue Wings Composting
✔ The R&D and application of custom innovative bio-processes on farm/company site
Relevant Educational Background:
– Bachelors degree, Biomolecular and Industrial Biotechnology