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Biofuel Experts Come Together To Boost Green Business
Agricultural waste, seaweed and paper could soon be used to power businesses across Scotland. That is the ambition of the new Scottish Biofuel Programme

Led by the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University, the Scottish Biofuel Programme is a partnership between the University of Abertay Dundee, Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), University of Edinburgh, and Scottish Agricultural College (SAC).

These organisations each have different areas of expertise and will work alongside each other to help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Scotland develop low carbon technologies, products and services.

SMEs will be able to apply to the programme’s Business Innovation Fund, which has a total volume of £70k available per year.

Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis and will allow businesses to exploit existing and future research commercially, as well as to conduct feasibility studies.

Abertay University specialises in biogas and bioethanol production, and has already worked with a number of SMEs on converting organic residues from agriculture, and the brewery and distillery industries, into methane gas.

The team at Abertay also provide expert advice to companies on yeast fermentation issues for fuel alcohol production.

Professor Graeme Walker, Director of Abertay University’s Yeast Research Group, explains:

“The government has stated that 20% of all energy should come from renewable sources by 2020, and the new Scottish Biofuel Programme will help us to reach that target.

“It isn’t necessary to plant crops that will be harvested specifically to produce biofuels, which is current practice in some parts of the world – the research we’ve been carrying out at Abertay has shown that there are an ever-increasing number of ways in which we can use waste materials to produce biofuels instead.

“For example, once a farmer has harvested the wheat or barley grains he produces in his fields, it is possible to ferment the residual straw to produce ethanol, which can then be converted into biofuel.

“It is also possible to convert brewers’ and distillers’ spent grains into bioethanol, and these are two of the areas in which we specialise at Abertay, so any business that applies to the Scottish Biofuel Programme will be referred to us for advice on how to move forward in these areas if we think they would be viable business prospects for their companies.”

Dr Joe Akunna, Abertay University’s internationally recognised expert in anaerobic digestion (AD) processes – which produce biogases, such as methane, which can then be used for fuel – added:

“The Scottish Biofuel Programme will be a one-stop-shop for any business looking to find out more about the different techniques that are available for converting waste materials into biofuels. This is something that is relevant to any number of different industries, including farmers, brewers, and even fish-processing plants and abattoirs.

“At Abertay, as well as specialising in bioethanol production, we can advise businesses on how to collect biogas from their organic residues – for example, a company that produces a lot of food-waste might be interested in finding out how it could convert that food waste into energy. In this instance, it will not only enable them to produce biogas which they can sell on to be converted into biofuel, but will also enable them to produce fertiliser which they will also be able to sell on as a commercial enterprise.”

Professor Martin Tangney, Director of Edinburgh Napier’s Biofuel Research Centre, said:

“We are mandated by the EU to have 10% biofuel by 2020 and the current debate on biofuel legislation is putting increased pressure on the industry to produce biofuel from wastes and residues. 

“This Government backed partnership is aimed at helping Scottish SMEs to achieve exactly that goal and we will provide a business and Research and Development (R&D) support base to grow the biofuel sector in Scotland.”

Fergus Ewing MSP, Minister for Energy, Enterprise & Tourism who will give a speech at the launch, said:

“Scotland is well placed to become a world leader in the production and use of sustainable biofuels with the huge environmental and commercial benefits that would bring – creating jobs and new income streams; making use of waste materials as well as contributing to reducing our transport-related carbon emissions.  

“The Scottish Government is very pleased to be supporting this collaboration between a broad partnership of some of Scotland’s key research institutions, to bring expertise and advice on biofuels within reach of organisations across the country.”

Julian Pace, rural director at Scottish Enterprise, who are funding the Programme along with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Scottish Government, said:

"The idea of creating revenue from waste material offers a great opportunity for SMEs to exploit, particularly those in rural areas of Scotland. We need to help our businesses understand how this could impact their bottom line, help grow their business and in turn contribute to the Scottish Government's ambitious low carbon targets."

At the launch at The Merchants Hall in Edinburgh today (Friday, November 16), a special exhibition will showcase the group’s expertise on renewable and sustainable biofuels.

Case studies on show will include:

Changeworks Recycling - the recycling company worked with Edinburgh Napier's Biofuel Research Centre and discovered Tetra Paks, paper and carboard could be converted into biobutanol to fuel their transport vehicles.

Sustainable Project Partners - the SME worked with scientists from SAMS on bioethanol production from seaweed.

Wessex Water - the University of Edinburgh's UK Biochar Research Centre (UKBRC) produced a comprehensice feasibility study of the company's best options in terms of energy, cost and carbon savings to add value to biosolids and help them move towards a more sustainable future.

Abertay University has worked with a number of Scottish SMEs on the conversion of organic residues from agriculture and the brewery and distillery industries. Other projects have included converting household organic wastes, biosolids from municipal water treatment plants and seaweed, to methane gas.

© 2013 The University of Abertay Dundee, DD1 1HG
The University of Abertay Dundee is a charity registered in Scotland, No. SC016040
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