Olive Oil Industry Is On The Rise In Greece


People in Greece suffer less cardiovascular problems from any other country in the world because of its consumption of olive oil daily in their diets.  Olive oil has many health benefits that help protect against heart disease and other ailments. Greece is well known for its olive tree industries, olive oil and olive kernel factories, cotton-ginning factories, corn industries, fruit industries, seed oil industries and rice industries.  Greece is the world's third largest producer of olive oil producing 441,000 tons annually. Spain, Italy, Tunisia and Greece are the largest exporters in the world with Greece exporting over 100,000 metric tons of olive oil that is bottled under non-Greek labels. Production of olive oil has increased 1.63% world wide but according to the International Olive Oil Council, but consumption is growing at half this rate.

How To Turn Olive Oil Waste Into A Resource

Every year 700 million tonnes of agricultural wastes are produced in the EU. The waste goes through a process of anaerobic digestion (AD) (decomposition without oxygen), using established technology it produces the biofuel - biogas (~50 % methane).

AGROBIOGAS is part of a project that involves 24 expert partner organizations throughout Europe who will gather knowledge and data about financial, legal and technical requirements to develop AD treatment under different local conditions in Europe. Greece is represented by the Panhellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives (PAS) who represents Greek Farmers, Co-operatives and 115 Unions of Agricultural Co-operatives. They are currently collecting and compiling information in Greece about the actual state and potential of the AD development which will result in the dissemination to and training of regional cooperatives and biogas farmers of South Europe. 

What is Anaerobic digestion?

 Anaerobic digestion (AD) is the harnessed and contained, naturally occurring process of anaerobic decomposition. Processing biodegradable waste using anaerobic digestion helps to reduce global warming. Farmers are excited to find that they will be able to treat their own waste together with other organic substrates. By these means, farmers will treat their own residues properly and at the same time, they could make a profit by treating and managing organic waste from other sources (waste disposal and management fees) and by selling and/or using its outputs: heat and electrical power together with a stabilised biofertiliser.

Biodiesel from Olive Oil

Can Olive Oil be used to produce  biodiesel?  Yes, it is possible but would it be cost effective?
 According to a report produced by the USDA, the Government of Greece plans to produce 160 million liters (ML) (42.3 million gallons US) of biodiesel and 400 ML (105.7 million gallons US) of bioethanol annually by 2010.

The Greek Ministry of Agriculture will ask the European Commission for permission to convert two of Greece's five existing sugar plants into bioethanol production facilities. If approved, Greece would dedicate some 50% of its current EU quota for sugar beet to meet the demand created by these two plants. The objective is to support the Hellenic Sugar Industry and sugar beet producers by giving them the option to continue cultivation of the crop.

At full production these two plants would have a total output of 120 ML (31.7 million gallons US) of bioethanol. Some 80,000 metric tons of sugar beets will be needed, along with 53,000 metric tons of molasses (also from beets), and 265,000 metric tons of cereals.

Currently, there are four biodiesel plants in operation in Greece, with another six to start producing in the next three years. The largest, due to enter production in 2008, will have an annual capacity of 50 million liters (13.2 million gallons US). Total biodiesel production in 2006 was about 73 million liters (19.3 million gallons US).

Greece has a biofuel target provided by the European Commission of 5.75% of total fuel consumption by 2010, which may increase to 10% by 2020 based on EC action this Spring. (Earlier post.) USDA estimates that Greece could produce only about a third of the raw materials needed to meet even the lower 5.75% level of biofuel production which means imports will probably be necessary.

Reader Comments

"Greece has several large inlets on its shores, e.g. the Isthmus of Corinth, that could be used to grow algae for biofuel feedstocks.  All they'd need is a few km of skirt and some iron powder plus special ships to harvest and process the stuff. " Posted by: Andy  

"A great deal of Greece's land is highly eroded and not very productive. This observation leads me to consider the merits of land-based algae production.  Using something like the Solix process (fed with CO2 from crop wastes and garbage combustion, perhaps) Greece could produce much more biofuel than it could from sugar crops.  If various bio-wastes were carbonized rather than gasified and the charcoal was used as a soil-building amendment, Greece's poor soils might be improved in just a few decades." Posted by: Rafael Seidl

Emissions-to-Biofuel Conversion

GreenFuel emissions-to-biofuels approach to growing its own feedstock consists of installing its modular units in line with, for example, a power plant's effluent-streaming smokestack, in which algae are cultivated and thrive on consuming carbon dioxide while breaking down nitrogen oxide bonds.

"Currently, GreenFuel Technologies is deploying field trials in the United States and internationally to validate its emissions-to-biofuels process at customer facilities", says Xiaoxi Wu, GreenFuel  chief scientist. "As an indicator of future biodiesel production potential, current company projections indicate that the GreenFuel system could convert up to 40 percent of the carbon dioxide from a 1,000 megawatt power plant into 40 million gallons of biodiesel per year. According to Xiaoxi, this system is poised for wide-scale deployment by the end of this decade."

Processing biodiesel from algae isn't as complicated as it sounds either. “In the case of GreenFuel's system, we separate the algae from its growth medium, break the cell membranes and separate the oils from the other organic matter", Xiaoxi tells Biodiesel Magazine. “The oils can then be processed into biodiesel, and the remaining organic matter can be used for other valuable applications. This compares favorably against other biodiesel feedstocks, which can require several additional steps.

Moreover, it's important not to forget researchers like Mike Haas of the USDA Agricultural Research Service, who developed and continues to sharpen in situ transesterification, a process technology that can potentially convert any lipid-bearing material to biodiesel, skipping the oil extraction phase altogether. Like any other feedstock coupled with a new technology though, the economics need to be proven before commercialization is feasible."

Olive oil Use In Synthesis of Quantum Dots,

Scientists in Germany are using Olive oil for cheap and clean synthesis of quantum dots, Quantum dots are nano-sized crystals that exhibit all the colors of the rainbow and can be used in the production of light-emitting diodes and lasers, and as fluorescent labels in medical imaging. Making quantum dots can be expensive and often use toxic phosphine molecules, which limits the production of the nanocrystals to the milligram scale.It was found that by using olive oil as the solvent to make cadmium selenium quantum dots, that the use of phosphines could be avoided and would enable the mass production of the nanocrystals. Quantum Dots 2012.