Mexico’s tequila industry can contribute a renewable solid fuel
By Francisco X Villasenor
Jan. 24, 2011, Mexico – Solid fuel made from Agave residues will revolutionize Mexican heat and electricity production and the tequila industry.
A graduate of the university Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, engineer Francisco X Villasenor has been researching second-generation biomass for conversion to valuable energy. He says that solid fuel will be made from Agave residues in March 2011, in the first facility located in the Amatitan Valley, the cradle of the tequila.
Agave briquettes and pellets will be produced specifically for generating electricity and heat, a substitute for the current use of fuel oil.
Agave’s potential as a feedstock
Integration and use of the solid waste obtained from the Agave industrialization, converting the biomass into a solid renewable fuel from Agave, in a briquette or pellet format.
In 2007, Carbon Diversion America Latina S.A. de C.V. (CDAL) was founded, as a research and development company in Mexico. Its aim is to develop new paradigms for renewable energy production from the conversion of biomass in a closed-cycle energy system.
Transformacion Carbon y Energia, S de R.L. de C.V. (TCE) is the first facility to use Agave biomass as a renewable feedstock and uses technology from CDAL. The feedstock is first densified, then flash carbonized and torrefied to convert the biomass into a solid fuel in pellet or briquette format.
Agave is grown industrially for tequila production. However, the leftover solid residues are difficult to dispose. TCE’s project has dual objectives: to dispose ecologically of Agave waste and convert it into a solid, renewable fuel. Disposal of Agave bagasse is currently an environmental problem, with the leaves left over in fields without any use. The waste is not useful for human consumption. With its conversion to solid fuel, the formation and release of carbon dioxide and methane produced in the bagasse piles will also be avoided.
The first facility has been installed in Amatitán Valley, in Jalisco State, Mexico, just 40 km from Guadalajara City. The next step is to certify the process and system as well as the Agave briquettes, pellets, and biocarbon production. The pilot plant will use Agave biomass as a feedstock to demonstrate its industrial viability.
Pilot plant advances
The foundation CDAL has been an innovative company and has three patents pending registration with the intellectual property institute (Instituto Mexicano de Propiedad Industrial). The first patent is for the process to transform Agave biomass into biocarbon and energy. The second patent is related to the industrialization of Agave biocarbon, the mixes and the byproducts. The third is a patent for the mixture and method to prepare solid fuel made from Agave species, as well as the biofuel in briquette and pellet format.
TCE will create a place for the disposal of the waste produced in industrial Agave production such as from tequila factories, inulin and honey factories, ethanol production, and industrialized pharmaceutical alcohol production. The facility will be the first of many others to be built in Mexico as the project develops.
Some of the outstanding properties of the densified Agave fuel are: high fixed carbon, low moisture, high density, excellent heating value, good chemical composition, lignocellulosic content, long consumption period, convenient dimensions, and cylindrical format.