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The sustainability of organic materials-based energy resources

Posted March 9, 2018

Image credit: JerzyGorecki via Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

The two main problems of sustainability are the recycling or reusing of materials and the efficient use of renewable energy. Biotech companies are solving these two main problems by converting organic waste materials into either biofuel or food supplements for poultry, fishery and livestock businesses.

Using waste-based feedstock for biofuel and bio-based protein concentrates (BPC) production is a very viable and sustainable option. Unlike fossil fuel, the sources of raw materials for bio-based feedstocks are abundant and renewable. These raw materials are also very cost-effective, and some can be obtained almost for free or even with a tipping fee collected.

About one-fifth of the global electrical energy sources are from renewable sources like solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, hydroelectric and biomass. According to the World Economic Forum, 160 gigawatts of clean energy plants were installed worldwide two years ago.

A small portion of the global energy consumption are powered by bio-based feedstocks or biomass waste products. In the same year, nearly five percent of the total electrical energy produced in the US is from biomass, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). This is roughly the equivalent of 71.4 billion kilowatts of electrical energy.

Organic materials from waste products of the agricultural, food and beverage industries are not totally useless. They are actually abundant sources of raw materials for bio-based feedstocks.

Sources of these organic raw materials include harvest wastes, remnants of trees cut down after logging, grasses (either purposely grown or wild types), woody energy crops, cultivated algae, scraps from factories, non-recyclable municipal solid wastes, and food wastes from food manufacturers and restaurants.

Biomass alternative

The supply of fossil fuel may seem inexhaustible, but it is definitely a non-renewable resource that will eventually be depleted.  The methods for extracting crude oil and natural gases are becoming prohibitively expensive and environmentally destructive. As the prices of crude oil rise and the supply gradually diminishes, finding alternative sources of energy becomes an absolute necessity.  More sustainable alternatives like biofuel must become the mainstream sources before the world reaches the peak oil stage.

Biomass raw materials can be converted into bioethanol fuel and BPC. This business and the operation models have excellent potentials in small agricultural communities as there is a growing need for alternative energy sources especially in areas that are relatively isolated or far from the main power grids.

Increased efforts for biomass-based energy

In the same article from the EIA, approximately 48 percent of the total biomass-based energy production in the US in 2016 is from biofuel (primarily ethanol). Only 41 percent is from wood and wood-derived products like waste papers. Meanwhile, mere 11 percent is from non-recyclable municipal waste products.

It is projected that the global demand for biofuel will rise to $57.8 billion by the year 2020. Peak oil might not have yet occurred by then, but the demand will be primarily spurred by the need for more energy-efficient and cleaner sources of energy.

As such, biotech companies like like Greenbelt Resources (OTCMKTS:GRCO) are likely to expand and have bigger roles. These companies will tackle problems not only in small communities but on larger scales. GRCO’s Paso Robles ECOsystem (PRECO), for instance, allows agriculture and food-based factories to convert their waste into bioethanol, which they could sell for profit. The method could easily draw in major companies for its efficiency in handling waste as well.

The California-based PRECO project currently receives feedstock from BarrelHouse Brewery, Firestone Walker Brewing and several wineries in the local area.

GRCO’s efforts to convert waste into alternative fuel has caught the attention of a few influential bodies, including Bloomberg and the White House. GRCO’s success is also helping it build more bridges with organizations such as the Andrew J. Young Foundation, which intends on acquiring as many as twenty $5-million systems from the biotech company.

Other similar companies such as Arizona Biodiesel, Amereco Biofuel Corp, and Biofeedstocks Global LLC may either expand or merge to handle larger demand for biofuel and its derivatives.

Written by Anna Reyes

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