Two innovative waste-to-energy pilot projects, promoted and supported by the Canary Islands Institute of Technology (ITC), have recently started in Gran Canaria: one dealing with biodiesel production from used cooking oil (UCO) and the other one with the exploitation of pork slurry in a small farm.
Currently, UCO is being shipped over 1,300 km to mainland Spain, where it is transformed into biodiesel. A collaboration agreement between two local companies (a social economy firm dedicated to waste management and the company in charge of Gran Canaria´s landfills) and ITC will study the feasibility of large scale biodiesel production from UCO in the Canary Islands, through a pilot project at ITC´s experimental biodiesel plant (treatment capacity: 4000 l/d). The possibility of using UCO for biodiesel production will aggregate local economic value to this raw material; further value is envisioned as a result of R&D activities to be carried out in relation to the use of glycerine obtained as a by-product of the transesterification process.
Furthermore, the first Biodigester installed at a pork farm in the Canary Islands was commissioned in October 2020. The installation has been designed as a demonstration plant to showcase the possibilities of valorisation of animal waste (both biogas for electricity as well as fertilizer production) in the Archipelago (there are more than 600 small-scale livestock farms in the Canary Islands). The plant, able to treat approx. 700 l/d of pork waste, will power a 10 kW generator.
Animal farming is the main contribution to methane emissions in the islands. Making a rational and controlled use of animal waste in biodigesters will reduce the amount of CH4 emissions from spontaneous decomposition of the organic fraction of waste at the landfills. The high quality mineralized fertilizer obtained at the effluent of the biodigesters would also contribute to reducing the current amount of imported fertilizers to the islands.
Given the high population density, the intensive tourist activity and the limited capacity of existing landfills in the Canary Islands, proper management of waste is a priority. Waste to energy promises a sustainable solution, particularly in small-scale.
Both circular economy pilot projects are part of ITC´s BioEnergyLab activities, an infrastructure set up by ITC in order to boost small scale biomass exploitation in the Canary Islands.