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Project "Development of INTEgrated aGRoindustrial wASTE management politics maximizing materials recovery and energy exploitation" - INTEGRASTE, has as main objective to utilize agro-wastes (agricultural plant residues) and agro-industrial wastes (from e.g olive mills, piggeries etc) in order to produce a sustainable fuel source that can be integrated into the existing energy infrastructure in the medium term while in the longer term will also provide a safe and economical means of supplying the needs of a developing hydrogen and biogas fuel economy.

Agro-industries are major contributors to the economy of Achaia region but on the other hand they constitute a severe source of pollution for the environment of the entire area. To be more specific, solid and liquid wastes from the aforementioned activities are released to riversides, along streams and in several rural places in Achaia region polluting surface and ground water supplies. Indicatively from just one sector of agro industrial activities such as olive mills it is estimated that 65.000 tones of wastes are annually produced and released with low or minimum pretreatment in aquatic receptors of Achaia region. The main project objective is to demonstrate that it is possible to solve the problem of agricultural wastes in Achaia region by developing a facility providing an integrated solution for the management of these wastes using anaerobic digestion for producing electrical and thermal energy, composting for material recovery and valorisation of the residuals.

The project focuses on identifying the different sources of organic wastes of high strength that can be efficiently combined in anaerobic digestion (AD) plants to produce gaseous biofuels (hydrogen and methane). Increasing waste treatment and disposal costs are now gradually forcing waste abatement and byproduct recovery. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of waste-free (clean) production still seems far away from realization. Although numerous waste and byproduct recovery processes have been introduced, anaerobic digestion has a unique and integrative potential, simultaneously acting as a waste treatment and recovery process. Anaerobic digestion has a great number of advantages: low nutrient requirements, energy savings, generation of low quantities of sludge, excellent waste stabilization and production of biogas (methane) and/or hydrogen without requiring residue pre-treatment. Anaerobic digestion is a particularly attractive treatment solution for high strength wastes due to the operational economy and generation of biogas and therefore is considered as a promising solution for energy production from renewable resources (biomass).

The INTEGRASTE project is in line with the national priority for waste and natural resources and the specific national target for maximising the recovery of materials and energy from waste through the development of methods of wastes exploitation. More specifically the promotion of electricity from renewable energy sources (RES) is a high European Union (EU) and national priority for combating climate change and several other reasons, including the security and diversification of energy supply, environmental protection and social and economic cohesion (e.g. Directive 2001/77/EC). Furthermore, a specific national target also addressed by the INTEGRASTE project is the Reuse of treated wastewaters.

A significant number of biogas plants have been built, mainly in the Northern Europe, and now the concept is spreading all over the world. Biogas plants treat various types of organic residues including sewage sludge, food industry residues and manure. Co-digestion of organic wastes is a technology that is increasingly being applied for simultaneous treatment of several solid and liquid organic wastes, in which the content of nutrients can thereby be balanced, and the negative effect of toxic compounds (e.g. phenols) on the digestion process may be decreased giving thus an increased gas yield from the biomass. Moreover, co-digestion contributes to a more efficient use of AD reactors and cost-sharing by processing multiple waste streams in a single facility. This action should help in protecting the environment and will determine how the technology can best be applied to provide a versatile, low-cost, carbon-neutral biofuel in an environmentally sound and sustainable agricultural framework. After digestion the sludge is passed to a sedimentation tank where the sludge is thickened. The thickened sludge requires further treatment prior to reuse or disposal. Composting of the produced sludge will also be examined in this project as an added value for the economic viability of the proposed process. Composting is an aerobic bacterial decomposition process to stabilise the sludge and produce humus (compost). The finished compost contains organic matter, nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, as well as sulphur, copper and boron and soil microbes. The addition of compost to the soil has a number of beneficial effects on the physical, chemical and nutrient properties of soil. Additions of compost help to improve soil structure, retain moisture, provide plant nutrients, increase organic matter and reduce disease. These properties are important in maintaining and improving soil conditions for plant growth. Composting takes place naturally on a forest floor where organic materials (leaf litter, animal wastes) are converted to more stable organic materials (humus) and the nutrients are released and made available for plant uptake. Compost will be used as a fertilizer for crops in order to achieve full exploitation of the waste streams treated, which is the main goal of this project.

The Project aims at improving the sustainable agrowaste management status in Greece and EU countries and fostering renewable energy production from exploitation of their organic agro-wastes. Specific project objectives include:

1. Determination of accurate energy balances for selected types and mixtures of agrowastes based on their seasonal and spatial availability.

2. Determination of anaerobic degradation rates and ultimate hydrogen/methane yield of selected types of agrowastes and mixtures thereof, in pilot plant scale.

3. Prediction of biogas and hydrogen energy production per Kg (or m3) of agrowaste mixture.

4. Assessment of advantages and limitations of co-digesting different agrowastes.

5. Identification of novel process designs that will help overcome known problems of digester stability.

6. Quantification of energy usage and potential savings in a pilot-scale AD plant via testing of different mixing systems, reactor and energy integration configurations.

7. Encouraging actions (training programs, consulting services, best practices exchange, communication campaigns) aimed at supporting in Greece the development of a renewable energy culture based on gaseous biofuels from agro-wastes and other organic residues.

8. Increase access of stakeholders to pilot plant operation data and local sources of financing for Renewable Energy.

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Integraste Actions & Expected Results

Integraste project is planned to produce promising results to alleviate the hesitations and barriers raised by stakeholders regarding the exploitation of agroindustrial wastes for material recovery (mainly compost) as well as electric

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The Environmental Problem

Today, world energy consumption contributes to pollution environmental deterioration and global greenhouse emissions. Increases in energy consumption are driven by population growth and economic development that tend to increase energy use per capita.

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The Partnership

Prefecture of Achaia has a significant experience in the field of agricultural waste management. Indicatively it was the lead partner of the project "Integrated management of agro-industrial waste waters in the cross-boundary Greek - Italian regions".

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