Pioneering Gloucestershire renewable fuel company aims to turn salmon waste into fuel

Green Fuels Salmon Farming

A pioneering renewable fuel company is aiming to make UK shipping more sustainable by using renewable fuel from aquaculture waste.

The project, called SALMO, is a Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MarRI-UK) initiative supported by the UK Department for Transport, which will convert waste biomass from salmon farming into drop-in fuels suitable for use in marine diesel engines.

The project will develop and validate a process for safely converting morts (fallen stock) and processing waste from salmon farming into renewable fuel suitable for the marine sector, which contributes three per cent of all human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (ICCT 2017).

Green Fuels, based at Berkeley in Gloucestershire, says that the use of waste ensures that the fuel is highly sustainable and fully biogenic, making a truly zero-carbon fuel.

SALMO is a collaboration between Green Fuels Research Ltd, the University of Cardiff and London South Bank University. The project will address two challenges: decarbonisation of the UK shipping industry, and sustainable management of animal by-product (ABP) waste from UK aquaculture.

There is a pressing, unmet need for viable, sustainable supply of low-carbon fuel for marine engines and use of such fuel is minimal at present. Meanwhile, aquaculture wastes are currently disposed of using non-productive routes such as composting or incineration.

The UK has an active in-shore fishing and shipping fleet that is subject to considerable economic pressure and consumes an estimated two billion litres of marine fuel a year. The alternatives for sustainable marine fuel will either be fuels derived from used cooking oil (which would be sustainable, but potentially displace feedstock from use in making road fuel) or imported palm oil, which carries significant challenges around indirect land-use change. Meanwhile, options such as electrification are only viable for specific sectors of shipping (ferries which dock one or more times daily, for example, and can be recharged from shore).

Possible alternative fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia do not have sufficient energy density for practical application, may not be fully sustainable (depending on the energy source for their production) and also present commercial barriers to shipowners concerned about stranding of assets if supply chain infrastructure is not developed.

Use of LNG or CNG to supplement fossil liquid fuel can increase engine efficiency but is ultimately a dead-end route to decarbonisation as they are still fossil fuels. Business as usual for UK shipping is the continued use of fossil bunker fuels.

Announcing the launch of SALMO, Dr Paul Hilditch, Chief Operating Officer of Green Fuels Research, said, “The UK has some of the world’s leading salmon farms within a thriving aquaculture sector concentrated in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, more than 200 fish farms operate producing more than 150,000 tonnes of salmon a year. Processing waste (heads, skin, vescera etc.) produces approximately 20,000 tons of waste oil, and fuel from it would save more than 34,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum.”

Last month Green Fuels Ltd  announced it had been awarded a $100,000 grant in recognition of the exceptional work it is doing in addressing the immediate and long term challenges resulting from the effects of the global pandemic.

The grant is designed to support the impact of the work Green Fuels is doing as a global producer of sustainable transport fuels.