It is not out of the realm of possibility that the fruit of the olive that produces the delicious oil that contributes to our healthy dietary well being, may someday provide the fuel that powers our machinery. Due to environmental awareness and growing sustainability practices, many byproducts from the food processing industry are being converted to biomass or biofuels, a plant-based renewable energy source that is an alternative to traditional fossil fuels.
A source of many biofuels is pomace, the mashed or pulverized solid waste product obtained in the rendering process in food production. Some more familiar biofuels are derived from corn, canola, and soybeans, as well as the oils rendered. In many countries, waste cooking oils, which were typically containerized and either landfilled or disposed of through sewer drains, are now being collected as a fuel source and burned in specially converted combustible motors or engines.
As reported recently in Olive Oil Times, pomace from some large scale olive oil production facilities is being converted into a fuel burning commodity. Following the olive oil extraction process, the remaining pressed pomace, composed of olive kernels, is a solid or almost wood-like material that once dried can be burned in a similarly converted motor or waste oil burner. This biofuel production practice has apparently been used by some of the major olive oil producing countries such as Greece and Spain for many years.
Although the olive pomace wood does not maintain the same BTUs or British Thermal Unit burning capacity as a fossil fuel, it does cost less to “manufacture”, does not emit noxious sulfur, and is seen as a better renewable energy source since it does not involve the cutting or wasting of trees.
Additionally, the pomace can be further or alternatively processed into a powder and compressed into a briquette. This product is currently being used by restaurants and residential dwellers in Europe as an alternative to charcoal, primarily due to its ability to ignite immediately, and the absence of unpleasant fumes and odor.