Energy-From-Waste District Heating Scheme Planned For Midlothian

A new energy-from-waste (EfW) district heating scheme has been given the go-ahead by Midlothian Council. Materials Recycling World reports that the project is to be a joint venture between the council and energy firm Vattenfall. The plans were altered, to include both electric and biofuel boilers as part of the backup scheme, and it was …

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BA Boosts Biofuels With New Deal For COP26

A collaboration to ensure all domestic flights to and from the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow in November are powered by sustainable biofuel is one of the ledges made by British Airways (BA) as part of its new BA Better World environmental programme.

The deal with BP will cover flights between London, Edinburgh and Glasgow during the conference, reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent compared with the sole use of traditional aviation fuel. The technique is achieved by blending the two fuels together.

BA has described the initiative as its “most important journey yet” and has partnered with Airbus to paint one of its fuel-efficient A320neos in the new sustainability programme’s colours.

A key feature of the new programme is a new carbon offset option. Instead of just planting trees or funding some low-carbon initiative elsewhere, passengers can purchase sustainable aviation fuel to cut their carbon footprints.

The airline noted that it had always been at the forefront of carbon reduction initiatives, being the first to report its carbon footprint in 1992 and the first to use emissions trading in 2002. It is now planning to become a zero carbon airline by 2050 and since last year has offered voluntary offsetting of all emissions on domestic flights.

Speaking at the launch of the programme, British Airways chairman and chief executive Sean Doyle said the firm has a “responsibility” to improve its environmental record and produce a “detailed plan” to meet its 2050 net zero target.

This can be done by “investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft, improving our operational efficiency and investing in the development of sustainable aviation fuel and zero emissions aircraft,” he added.

Mr Doyle acknowledged that; “It is only through working in partnership with government and industry that we’ll be able to reach our targets,” and thanked BP for the collaboration that made possible the use of sustainable fuel for the COP 2 flights.

He confirmed the BP deal was “in addition to the mandatory carbon trading we already operate in the UK and our own further voluntary carbon offsetting of our UK domestic flights.”

Chief executive of BP’s aviation division Martin Thomsen said it was a major aim of the firm to decarbonise the aviation sector, adding: “We will continue to collaborate with industry stakeholders and governments to explore viable options to help scale up sustainable aviation fuel more broadly.”

It is not just BA that is giving biofuels a boost. In the US, United Airlines and conglomerate firm Honeywell have joined forces to invest millions of dollars in Alder Fuels, a cleantech company that is seeking to develop aviation fuel from biomass such as waste crop and wood.

The plan is to combine Honeywell’s ‘Ecofining’ process with Alder’s technologies to achieve the holy grail of a new kind of biofuel that can act as a 100 per cent replacement for traditional aviation fuel.

The agreement includes a commitment by United to buy 1.5 million gallons of the fuel once it has met the required standard.

Like BA, United is committed to becoming a net zero carbon airline by 2050.

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Research Claims Filtering Waste Into Willow Trees Could Produce Biofuels

A study looking into the effects of filtering wastewater into willow trees could help to create renewable biofuels, green chemicals and clean water, whilst at the same reducing a growing problem caused by contaminated water.

The project, published in Science of the Total Environment, suggests that over 30 million litres of wastewater per hectare of willow trees could be treated every year using this approach, which the research team described as a “biorefinery”.

  1. Why Willow Trees?

Willow has historically been one of the most widely used woods for medicinal and even manufacturing purposes, with a fishing net made from willow dating back over 10,000 years.

It has considerable upside for biofuel production because it grows very quickly and its biomass can be transformed into a range of sustainable products, including bioethanol and green plastics produced without fossil fuels.

Willows are also exceptionally hardy trees that are very naturally tolerant of contamination, and it is this quality in particular that has made this research fascinating.

Willows do not, for example, need to be grown on high-quality land and so do not use land that could be used for food crops, and the powerful roots of willow trees naturally filter out the nitrogen that is commonly found in sewage waste.

This versatility is not unknown, and a previous study has suggested that a fifth of the world’s energy requirements could be provided through willow-produced biofuel without damaging food production whatsoever.

Willow also produces a range of highly useful chemicals, of which the most well-known and well-used is salicin, a precursor to aspirin.

Through filtering sewage, willow has also been found to produce a range of green chemicals with antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Research has even been undertaken into ways to recover valuable metals using plant technologies that essentially extract them from contaminated soil.

  1. Creating Biofuel From Willow Trees

Willow is a particularly effective producer of biomass, the plant material that is either burned or refined into biofuels such as bioethanol.

Once the willow has grown and been replanted, the wood from the trees is taken to a processing plant where through surface grinding it is turned into chippings.

These chippings could be burned on their own as for wood-burning stoves and boilers, but in most cases are taken to a biorefinery, where the clippings and chippings undergo a chemical process to convert them into bioethanol, typically through fermentation of sugars, starches and cellulose.

At this point, the bioethanol enters the fuel refinery process where additives are mixed in or the bioethanol is added to conventional fuel to serve as a replacement for petroleum.

Recently, the government changed the standard formulation of petrol in the UK to add twice the amount of bioethanol to it. This new E10 petrol is claimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 750,000 tonnes a year, with little impact on modern cars.

Indeed, it is believed that most current cards manufactured since 2011 could use fuel mixed with up to 15 per cent bioethanol without the risk of mechanical problems, although the current E5 mix is still available for classic car owners.