An increasing number of consumers want to drive environmentally-adapted cars. In recent years, demand for fuels for various types of transport has grown significantly. Traditional vehicle manufacturers and oil companies have developed their traditional and new products with greater care for the environment in mind.
Engines have been adapted to operate on biofuel and be more fuel-efficient, while petrol and diesel is being made less harmful to the environment. But new companies are also developing alternative fuels and are entering the market, as are companies which produce the equipment necessary for the production of these new fuels. At user-level, distributors are working on making biofuel available to a growing number of customers, and blend fossil fuels with new, more environmentally-adapted alternatives.
Biodiesel made from plants and animal fat
The company Ageratec is taking advantage of the new business opportunities. Outside Norrköping, the company is developing and producing processing equipment for the production of biodiesel from plants and animal fat. The smallest systems made by Ageratec can be used on individual farms to produce biodiesel for the farm’s own tractors from ingredients such as rapeseed oil. It may sound like the farmer choose to make fuel instead of producing food, but most of the raw materials for the biodiesel cannot be used for food anyway. Mostly, various forms of waste are used in large-scale, such as fat from slaughter waste. Used deep-frying oil from fast food outlets is another example. In the final analysis, the tractor driver will not be able to tell whether the vehicle is running on biodiesel or regular diesel.
”Our clients buy the equipment for a variety of reasons. Some have access to their own raw material which they want to turn into fuel, while others may use a lot of fuel and are looking to reduce their fuel bills. There are also buyers who want to make the transport and waste side of their farming operations more environmentally-friendly”, says David Frykerås, CEO and co-owner of Ageratec.
The idea behind the business is to turn farmers into both raw material producers and end-users. Since 2003, the company has sold around 80 machines, which start at SEK 1.5 million and can deliver between 2,000 and 340,000 litres of biodiesel per day. The company is building the equipment in Norrköping, and while most of its buyers are in Australia, plants have been sold in 18 countries around the world. Around 95 percent of the company’s production is exported.
Advantages of biodiesel
Local production of biodiesel benefits both the economy and the environment compared with the use of regular diesel. Ageratec emphasises that:
- Companies can reduce their fuel bills and create business opportunities by selling any surplus. This boosts the company’s environmental profile.
- The use of biodiesel means that the dependence on fossil fuels is reduced by utilising the energy content of waste products from the agricultural and slaughter industries.
- The by-products generated by biodiesel production are also valuable. E.g. the rapeseed cake which is produced when rapeseed is pressed is a popular animal feed. The glycerol left over from the production of biodiesel can be used in the production of biogas.
There are also advantages in replacing regular diesel with biodiesel.
- Working environment risks are reduced since biodiesel is less toxic. In the event of a spillage or leak, soil and water is less contaminated by toxic substances.
- Biodiesel produces lower emissions of carbon dioxide, sulphur, hydrocarbons and particles.
The accompanying picture shows some of the equipment used in the production of biodiesel. The process starts with the raw material (e.g. rapeseed) being pressed and the oil filtered and stored in a tank. The oil is then pumped to another tank and preheated. Methanol or ethanol and a catalyst is added to the processing tank, which sets off a chemical reaction. This, in turn, produces biodiesel and the by-product, glycerol. The glycerol is separated off and any surplus ethanol or methanol recovered. The biodiesel is neutralised, purified and filtered in subsequent process stages, and is then pumped into the storage tank.
This article was first published in Advantage Environment printed in February 2008