A technology-developing project to convert toxic waste from olive oil production into electricity has resulted in a pilot plant in Andalucía, Spain. Biogas2PEM-FC, as the EU project is called, was coordinated by fuel cell technology company PowerCell, Gothenburg, Sweden, together with partners from Spain, Greece, Sweden and the United Kingdom.ToxicWaste_IN

Waste from olive oil production is environmentally harmful and costly to landfill. It contains pesticides and toxic organic compounds. Also, it is acidic and has a high salinity. The Biogas2PEM-FC project focused on developing a technology to convert waste from the olive oil production into electricity.

During the project, a three-part subsystem was developed:

  • The primary step is an anaerobic digestion reaction to produce biogas from the waste.
  • The second step is a reformer to convert the biogas to a hydrogen-rich gas (reformate).
  • The last step is a fuel cell system to make electricity from the reformate gas.

A complete pilot plant has been built and tested on the cooperative of San Isidro de Loja, Granada. It converts the toxic waste into electricity and heat that can be used by the olive mill. The plant in Andalucía includes the reprocessing of waste from olive oil production, biogas production from waste, reforming of biogas, as well as a fuel cell power generation system from reformate gas.

The developers created a short film about the pilot plant that can be viewed here.