BUILDING INTEGRATED BIODIESEL MICRO-REFINERY
by Per Sauer
Traditionally, the aim of waste management in buildings has been to remove waste in the simplest and least offensive way possible, resulting in an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality. However, in many Asian cities the incredible rate of growth is outpacing the ability of governments to provide critical services and waste management infrastructure. Coupled with the rising cost of energy and resources, this has led many to look for different ways of handling waste; treating it as a resource and decentralising its handling.
This approach is based on the model of Urban Metabolism. Study of ecological systems shows that in nature all things are connected through the flows of materials and energy—one organism’s waste becomes another’s food. So how can we change our buildings from open-ended energy consuming objects to nodes in closed cycles of energy and materials?
A common waste product with high-energy content that is simple to process is the humble cooking oil. Currently used cooking oil is often sold for exportation to other countries where its end use is not always clear. With an energy content of around 38,000 kilojoules per kilogramme, slightly less than diesel fuel, it is a prime candidate for energy recovery through conversion to biodiesel. The production of biodiesel from used vegetable oil is not new, however advancements in automating and scaling down the technology now mean that it can be implemented in building developments close to the source of the waste and the consumption of the energy produced.