Israeli Company Wants to Turn Olives into Biofuel

From the World Press Herald, news of Israeli company Genova Ltd.‘s plans to develop a device that makes biofuel out of a staple of the Middle Eastern diet: the olive:

“We can produce electricity for 4 cents per kilowatt hour,” Genova Chief Executive Officer Yonat Granot told United Press International in a telephone interview. In comparison, other sources of biomass electricity produce a kilowatt hour for about 15 cents, Granot said.

Granot and Yuri Wladislavsky, Genova’s founder, said the Genova devices relatively ease of use and low cost were their greatest advantage.

“Our device costs about $400,000, whereas other biomass devices cost about $700,000,” Granot said. “The gap is significant.”

The pilot facility, set to be completed by the end of 2007, will be a 200 kilowatt generator in the Druze village of Julis. This is enough electricity to power about 70 homes, Granot said.

Julis, in the western Galilee region, is connected to the Israel Electric Corp.’s national grid. Granot said Israel Electric Corp. is supporting the project, which has approval from the Ministry of the Environment.

Locating the pilot facility in Julis eliminates the need to transport the olive waste, Wladislavsky said, thereby significantly cutting costs.

Granot and Wladislavsky also emphasized the environmental benefits of producing energy from olive waste — called “gefet” in Hebrew and “jift” in Arabic.

The main benefit of the olive-green electricity is a much smaller amount of carbon dioxide emissions when compared to the burning of fossil fuels, Granot said. Plus, “the gefet itself is an environmental problem,” Wladislavsky said. Using it to create energy means it isn’t polluting the areas surrounding the olive press.

I found this interesting because it got me thinking about source materials for biofuels. We argue about corn, sawgrass and sugarcane, but wouldn’t biofuel production from local and regional agricultural products (and their wastes) make the most sense? Wouldn’t that ultimately cut way down on the energy that goes into producing the fuel?

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