Abengoa Turns Sewage into Biofuels


by | Jun 27, 2013

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AbengoaAbengoa has opened the world’s first plant to convert sewage to biofuels in Spain.

The demonstration plant uses the company’s waste-to-biofuels (W2B) technology and has the capacity to treat 25,000 tons of municipal solid waste from which it will obtain up to 1.5 million liters of bioethanol for use as fuel.

The facility, located in Babilafuente, Salamanca, produces second-generation biofuels from sewage using a fermentation and enzymatic hydrolysis treatment. During the transformation process, the organic matter is treated in various ways to produce organic fiber that is rich in cellulose and hemicellulose, which is subsequently converted into bioethanol.

The production of bioethanol from municipal solid waste is a major technological breakthrough in waste management, since it increases the recovery rate and minimizes the carbon footprint. The renewable fuel produced cuts GHGs per kilometer traveled by 70 percent, compared to fossil fuels. It also maximizes the recovery of the organic fraction of the municipal solid waste and prevents more than 80 percent of the waste ending up in landfill.

The bioethanol produced at the W2B plant can be used as transportation fuel or as an as an additive for gasoline that increases its octane rating. It can also be used in in the chemicals and pharmaceutical industry — in solvents or cosmetics, for example — and even as an intermediate product in producing jet fuel.

Earlier this month, US Energy Initiatives Corporation, Siemens and POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels all launched major biofuels projects and Scottish startup Celtic Renewables announced plans to turn waste from the country’s £4 billion ($6 billion) whiskey-making industry into millions of gallons of renewable fuel, creating a £60 million ($90 million) biofuels industry.

President Obama’s climate plan, announced Tuesday, calls for cleaner-burning fuels for transportation and says the federal government will work with the private and public sector to deploy biofuels, advanced batteries and fuel cell technologies for all modes of transportation.

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