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¿Residuos cítricos para biocombustible?

Citrus waste for biofuel?

In other articles we have already seen different options for using orange peels. orange peel in the kitchen, for crafts or beauty products.But what can be done with the citrus waste produced in large-scale industry?

In 2010, a Valencian company, Citrotecnomanaged to turn a problem into a business opportunity by setting up the world's first citrus waste treatment and recovery plant. The idea was to process the raw material for animal feed, D-Limonene essential oil, pure water and second generation bioethanol.

In juice production, the peel, seeds and pulp become waste. In the Valencian Community alone, this waste amounts to more than 600,000 tons per year. This waste is usually fed directly to livestock without going through any treatment process but, as it ferments very quickly, it is highly polluting and the authorities have banned this practice.

Citrotecno has succeeded in producing four different products from citrus waste:

  • Second generation bioethanol: it is a clean and renewable fuel. The advantage is that no food is used as raw material, only waste.
  • Pellets: The dehydrated citrus pulp is used directly and as a raw material for the production of animal feed.
  • D-Limonene: This is the essential oil that gives citrus fruit its aroma and color. It is widely used in both the pharmaceutical and food industries as a flavoring and flavoring agent. It is also used in other industries (e.g. for solvents, paints, adhesives, fragrances, insecticides, etc.).
  • Water: In the transformation process, Citrotecno succeeds in recovering the water contained in citrus waste and transforming it into purified water.

In 2013, however, this innovative company went into voluntary bankruptcy. The lack of raw material and the continuous increase in gas required for production, among other things, forced the first citrus waste recycling plant to close(Source: Expansión). (Source: Expansión)

In 2011 a group of British, Brazilian and Spanish scientists presented a project to convert orange peels into chemicals and biofuels. The idea is to process the waste at both domestic and industrial scale to obtain a renewable source of energy. To do this, the peel is crushed and subjected to a high-powered microwave field to release different chemical elements. In this way, all the waste generated, e.g. in the production of orange juice, could be used (Source:

In 2013, research by Australian scientist Claudia Vickers (University of Queensland) on the use of limonene in jet fuel was published. It seems incredible but it turns out that this substance, responsible for the typical aroma of lemons, in the future, could be a clean source for producing fuel. Since it is impossible to obtain sufficient quantity from lemon peels, the researcher is using yeast and trying to perfect the method for commercial use.

In 2014, after more than a year of research, scientists at Japan's Mie University succeeded in developing a biofuel from oranges unfit for consumption, i.e. damaged or spoiled oranges, and the peels discarded after producing orange juice. The research team succeeded in powering an approximately 14-kilogram vehicle, activated by remote control, with this new biofuel from oranges. Professor Yutaka Tamaru explains that this fuel could be used for gasoline-powered tractors and agricultural mowers. By mixing discarded oranges with a bacterium obtained from wood chips, a biofuel can be produced that is less corrosive than bioethanol produced from corn or sugar beet and is characterized by a higher calorific value.

In this article we have only mentioned some of the research and projects in this field. There are many attempts and possibilities to take advantage of citrus industry waste, but more studies and research are still needed to find a sustainable and, at the same time, commercially profitable method.

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