EurActiv - Letters to the Editor


Regarding ‘Industry chief: Biofuel from waste can reduce landfill‘:

At last we hear some good news from an enterprising source. How welcoming to read such positive comments.

The move from Finland is not an isolated one in Europe. I have also heard that GeneSyst teams in Europe will be starting work on several major waste biomass to ethanol projects in a major roll out of projects within the next few weeks.

In the UK this will be with Mytum and Selby Recycling at South Milford in Yorkshire. This project will initially be converting 300,000 tonnes per year, dry weight, of recovered biomass (or biowaste) from municipal solid waste to make over 90 million litres of the biofuel ethanol. It is scheduled for completion in 2012. This will be followed almost immediately with an even larger plant near Goole to convert 500,000 tonnes of biomass, again from municipal solid waste, to make up to 150 million litres of ethanol by 2013/14.

Another plant which I understand will be privately financed is awaiting final acceptance for land apportionment is scheduled for Malta. This again will be using around 260,000 tonnes per year of recovered biomass to make over 85 million litres of biofuel ethanol. In Holland a GeneSyst project started 14 months ago and which got caught up in the banking crisis is now rescheduled to start after Easter. This project will be converting 230,000 tonnes per year of biomass from municipal and farm wastes to make over 50 million litres of ethanol by 2012.

In the wider arena, GeneSyst facilities will also be starting in the early spring in Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City), Kentucky and Israel.

The programme here, though, is different to that discussed in the interview, as it uses a process known as Dilute Acid Hydrolysis – a procedure first developed in the 19th century and through the Great Wars of the 20th century but which languished due to lack of development. Under the GeneSyst development formulated by its founding engineer, James Titmas from the USA (now under development in the UK and Europe and beyond), it has been upgraded and improved using its internationally-patented Gravity Pressure Vessel.

This means that the process is now continuous and requires no pumping or external heating and occupies a small footprint. By this innovative development the procedure uses standard off-the-shelf equipment from the water industry and traditional fermentation equipment. This means that the process is able to convert any biomass to the biofuel ethanol regardless of source and regardless of the mix – placing particular emphasis on using non-food crops. Thus it includes the biomass we throw away from society like that from municipal solid waste, food and drinks production, industry and commerce and from crops damaged by climate and seasonal factors as well as from disease. Importantly it also includes that contained in sewage sludge.

This means that the biofuel ethanol (or indeed butanol and others) can be produced locally at the market place at a price comparable to producing ethanol from sugar crops and from starch-rich grains and food crops.

Furthermore, because the process is water-based, it emits no odours, particulates or dust and even the carbon dioxide produced can be captured or diverted to grow farmed algae. Perhaps most significantly, here is a programme that has a low capital cost, which betters by far the destructive processes that have caused so much concern, and which can compete with existing landfill costs: surely isn’t that what taxpayers want to hear from waste managers.

So let’s state it again in a more positive and clearer statement: Biofuels from waste will avoid the use of landfill.

Author :


  1. Dear Editor,

    I will not go into the technical aspect of the various ways and methods of producing bio-fuels since this was very well argued by the other two contributors.

    The issue here is the premise the article makes, that is the assumption that we cannot meet the EU 2020 Target for Bio-fuels Substitution of Fossil Derived Fuels. That premise is faulted in my opinion and in various others’ opinions is the status of continuing to make the Bio-fuels without considering ”directly aiding” those companies like Genesyst in using a system that preferentially uses NON FOOD BASED BIOMASS as the Raw Material.

    The issue is that if we do not encourage our own EU companies then we will be importing fuels from Brazil, USA, China and even parts of Africa and so moving the Monopoly from one source to another. And lest we should be too brazen about the issue, it is one of Jobs and Balance of Payments as well as GHG’s.


  2. To me in Bulgaria this seems like an ideal opportunity for the Government of Malta to steal a march on the other Small Island Development communities such as Cyprus or the Canaries the Acores and even Mauritius.

    If as I understand it from these notes from Ms Edwards and subsequently by Mr Micallef that if we were to opt in for using biomass for manufacturing the biofuels (and here the reference is ethanol) then the impact on food price rises in competition in use between foods and fuel would be removed. That I welcome as I am sure that those who have suffered as a consequence of the rush to rebuild a biofuels market have also found.

    I have looked at the system in the Genesyst notes and find that this was a process as old as 1820 dating back to the original process that was later used during the First and Second World Wars. The advantage that they have compared to the enzyme processing is that it is simple and is not beholden to the whims and fancies of enzyme manufacture. I have researched further here and see that the plant for Malta will cost around €90 million and produce about 85 million litres of biofuel ethanol from 260,000 tonnes of biomass! Even if this was 75 million litres that would be very good: obviously they have not stated what materials they are using although I do recollect that in their Israeli plant they will be using Macro-Algae 0 and that contains no lignin. I look forward to seeing these plants working.

    Why hasn’t anyone in the European Union assisted with this innovative development potential of returning to a process which only needed a non-pressure pump system to operate to make it more efficient. Good on the Team that aspires to build these plants in Malta Gozo and Israel. Let’s hope that within a few days or so we get to hear that these projects have been given the Governments’ nods of approval to build.

  3. This is really good news for Finaland and the UK.

    Two companies working on the same issue using comparatively similar processes. What a pity we do not have them working together?

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