15 October 2009
Almonds, grapes new sources for biodiesel in Calif.
San Diego contractor Menon & Associates, which has developed various methods of producing biofuel from organic waste, recently won an $800,000 grant from the California Energy Commission to convert California almond husks and grape pulp into feed stock for biodiesel.
The Sorrento Valley company, which is putting up $500,000 of its own money towards the three-year program, plans to convert the pulp, known as “cellulosic waste,” into an oil-based triglyceride similar to palm or coconut oil, according to the San Diego Business Journal.
“We make the intermediate product that can be used by the refinery to make fuel,” said President Suresh Menon. “Cellulosic materials have carbon in them. What we do is concentrate the carbon into the intermediate products that can be used by a refinery.”
Menon uses a combination of enzymes to break down the cellulosic material.
While they will be working with grape and almond waste materials in this program, almost any cellulosic material can eventually be converted, such as paper, cardboard, tree cuttings, switch grass, or sugar cane waste, he said.
The program goal is to produce at least 30 gallons of fuel from every 2,000 pounds of waste material.
It’s exciting,” said Michele Demetras, a spokesperson from the California Energy Commission. “Something like 80% of the world’s almonds are grown in the San Joaquin Valley. That’s something that would go into a landfill or be burned, releasing more CO2 in the air. And it’s being used for biofuel.”
Menon said if they can transform wastes from the state’s bumper crops into usable fuel—with low production and energy costs—the state could harvest new jobs in the green-energy sector and the nation would decrease its dependence on foreign oil.
“If we can make it here in California, you would create jobs at various levels not only at the feedstock level, but transportation, infrastructure and the energy area,” he said. “That creates a lot more jobs with a minimal investment.”
For related information, go to www.isa.org/environment.