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New renewable energy technology facilitates bio-oil production


London, ON – New portable technology developed by University of Western Ontario researchers facilitates the production of bio-oils, which have many uses in the development of pharmaceuticals, alternative fuels and even cooking.

Developed by Franco Berruti and Cedric Briens, chemical and biochemical engineering professors at Western, the first pilot of the fast pyrolysis machine produces bioproducts and renewable energy from such agricultural materials as raw sugar cane, tobacco, rice straw and coffee husks. The machine converts materials into bio-oil through pyrolysis, which is the chemical process of decomposition through heating. Liquids produced can be further processed into fuels, pharmaceuticals and food additives – including flavour for BBQ sauces and browning agents for meat. Solid residues can be used as fertilizer.

The work was the result of a joint venture between Western and Dorchester-based Agri-Therm. Agri-Therm develops, manufactures and markets portable and stationary equipment for producing bio-oils and products from bio-mass, specifically agriculture residue, wastes and transition crops.

“Agricultural wastes are typically seasonal and spread over large areas; consequently, stationary processing plants may not be economically viable,” says Dr Berruti. “Agri-Therm’s mobile technology offers an innovative solution for the efficient transformation of a wide variety of waste materials into valuable green chemicals or carbon dioxide-neutral renewable energy.”