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Pilot Project Extracts Energy From Fish Waste

SHEDIAC – A pilot project to convert seafood waste into energy at Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L., is attracting attention from a number of fish processing companies in the Atlantic region, according to the director of the program.

“What we’re doing is we’re looking at taking waste streams coming out of the seafood and aquaculture sector and creating value-added products with it,” said Heather Manuel, director of the Centre for Aquaculture and Seafood Development (CASD).

Manuel spoke on the second day of the Atlantic Canada biorefinery conference held in Shediac on Tuesday.

“Part of the reason we are doing this particular pilot project is to determine what the economic feasibility is of doing this on a larger scale,” she said.

Cooke Aquaculture, a Blacks Harbour-based fish farming company, is one of several partners working with the centre’s marine bioprocessing facility to turn fish waste into heating fuel or bio-diesel on site to run their operations.

“We’ve always invested a lot into innovation and R&D,” said Nell Halse, vice-president of communications for Cooke Aquaculture.

“From a point of view of long-term energy use and recycling, it’s an interesting idea, and if there is any way we can help explore that any further to see if it’s a viable thing for the future, we are really keen to do that,” she said.

She cautioned it is still too early to discuss the technology but said it has potential.

“We are contributing some salmon waste to see whether this might work, but it’s still too early to really say how it is going to turn out.”

The company’s processing plant in Harbour Breton, N.L., is sending food waste to the bio-processing plant in St. John’s, she said.

The 270-square-foot facility opened in December 2006 with assistance from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government.

In February the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Newfoundland and Labrador announced a $89,100 funding grant for CASD to establish the bio-refinery.

Since then the pilot project has been focused on optimizing the extraction of oil from the food waste to create bio fuel, but it has also faced a few challenges.

“There are a lot of issues around collecting the waste streams from the various processing facilities because they are so scattered throughout the province,” said Manuel.

“We have a very large land mass; we have a number of fish plants and aquaculture sites that are spread out over a large geographic area, so the waste streams that are coming out of those sectors, what do you do with it? How do you collect it and how do you make value from that particular product?” she said.

A number of fish processing companies, such as UniSea Inc. and US Seafood, use fish oil and diesel blends as a substitute for diesel fuel. For example, in 2003, Unisea used about 3.8 million litres of 50:50 fish oil?diesel blends at its Unalaska Powerhouse, according to a report by the U.S. Energy Tribal Energy Program.

(Copyright (c) 2012 Telegraph-Journal (New Brunswick))