Valorisation of residues from the vegetable oil industry based on a biorefinery approach
This project aims to explore the possibility of transforming existing vegetable oil industries (VOI) into biorefineries by converting process residues into new value-added products and energy, whereas creating the circularity in the life cycle of resources.
The motivation for this research lays in the fact that the vegetable oil industry (VOI) in the EU produced approximately 16 million metric tons of oils in 2022 and this amount is expected to increase to 17.5 million metric tons by 2031. During the oil production and refining, various types of process residues are produced, such as oil seeds cakes (OC), spent bleaching earth (SBE), soapstocks, fatty acid distillates, acid oil, and others. Those materials are mostly unutilized.
First, mapping of the VOI in the Europe will be performed, where the data on availability, quantity and current management of residues will be collected. Different scenarios for the transition of VOI into integrated biorefinery will be studied by optimisation approach and process modelling. Then, an experimental research on a) advanced thermo-chemical methods, b) fungal-based biological methods, and c) synergy of two methods will be done using residual materials from the production of hemp, pumpkin, and flax oil, particularly oil cakes, as a model materials. During the treatment, a variety of the products will be produced and characterized. To close the loop, the advanced use of obtained products for various applications will be investigated. At the end, a life cycle assessment (LCA) of obtained products will be performed and the environmental impacts of the used technologies will be analysed and quantified.