Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) are developing cost-effective techniques for separating and converting poultry processing residuals into higher-value products such as high-grade fuels. The techniques would provide a beneficial use for these byproducts, which are typically blended back into lower-value products.
“Our ultimate goal is to extract usable, quality feedstocks from poultry processing byproducts such as brown grease extracted from wastewater pretreatment processes. If successful, we will help reduce costs by providing a cheap and simple way for the industry to better utilize their low-quality waste oil and grease byproducts,” says John Pierson, a GTRI principal research engineer.
To achieve this goal, Pierson and GTRI research coordinator Robert Wallace teamed with the Cumming, Ga.-based company American Proteins to obtain samples of poultry-processing waste materials. They first focused their efforts on developing better ways to separate usable portions of the waste – such as free fatty acids, neutral oil and waxes – from unusable portions, such as solids and other insoluble materials.
Using improved refining and degumming techniques, the researchers were able to effectively reduce the volume of waste material by 75 percent.
“We are currently working on increasing the efficiency of these separation techniques, and on scaling up our separation techniques for use in a plant rather than the laboratory,” notes Wallace.
In addition to developing improved separation processes, the researchers are working to convert the various fractions into biofuels at a higher yield than currently possible with typical processes. For this project, Pierson and Wallace teamed with Christopher Jones, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering; Tom Fuller, a GTRI principal research engineer and a professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering; and graduate student Eric Ping.
The team is currently conducting solid-catalyst research to convert recovered usable fractions into alkane hydrocarbons or kerosene fuel, a primary ingredient for jet fuel. Initial efforts have identified promising solid-catalyst materials capable of converting selected fractions of polished brown grease more efficiently than traditional processes.
“Recovering these value-added products from waste oils is very important because it gives the industry greater flexibility in revenue generation as the recovered, value-added products can be used for traditional products or biofuels, whatever the market will bear,” added Pierson.
This project is supported by GTRI’s Agricultural Technology Research Program, GTRI’s independent research and development program, and Georgia’s Traditional Industries Program for Food Processing.
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Writer: Abby Vogel