First Waste Treatment Plant for Forestry Wastes in Argentina

In Santa Ana, 45 km away from the city of Posadas, Misiones, is located the first pyrolysis plant in Argentina, which turns sawdust into bio-coal, fertilizers and bio-oils, thus avoiding wastes to endanger the environment.

First Waste Treatment Plant for Forestry Wastes in Argentina

Distillation of pyroligneous liquor. Distillation of pyroligneous liquor (left) before distillation (right).

Wastes generated by forestry in the province of Misiones are usually burnt to avoid accumulation. This generates smoke, ashes and gases that have a negative impact on the environment and cause an increase of the greenhouse effect and change the area landscape.

To face this situation, a hydraulic engineer, Miguel Melnechuk, a specialist in wood technology and his brother Guillermo, an electromechanical engineer, developed a project to set up a pyrolysis plant in the location of Santa Ana, for treatment of the forestry industry wastes that uses sustainable technology without effluents and allows turning wastes into bio-coal, fertilisers and bio-oil.

When I was in my master course on "Wood Technology" at the University of Misiones, I learned about an incubated company in Campinas, Brazil, called Bioware, which was working on a pilot fast pyrolysis plant using sugar cane bagasse, then, I thought of using the same technology for the treatment of forestry industry wastes”, pointed out Miguel Melnechuk, who leaded the construction of this bio refinery.

The first stage of this project included the setup of a pilot plant to test the potential energy from different biomass wastes. This initiative was successful thanks to the funds granted by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation, ARS 192,985, through the Argentinean Technology Fund (FONTAR) granted by the National Agency for Science and Technology Promotion. The potential energy of biomass has been proven through a process known as pyrolysis or carbonization which consists in heating the biomass in a low/no oxygen environment. Thus, it turns wastes into bio-coal, bio-oil, and pyrolytic gases that may be refined into products with a higher added value. For such purpose, a reactor has been installed, which through a sand bed transfers heat to the sawdust producing its carbonization.

During tests at this pilot plant, 2000 kg of wet wastes could be processed in one hour and with them, 200 kg of bio-coal, 300 kg of bio-oil, and 100 kg of acid essence could be obtained during the same period. The bio-coal obtained at this plant may be used as a fertiliser for the soil as it acts as a pH riser in acid soils, absorbing water that may be then available for plants. In addition, it has a labyrinthine structure that creates a micro-habitat for microorganisms that are beneficial to the soil and that retain minerals and atmospheric carbon, mitigating climate change.

This bio refinery also develops charcoal briquettes obtained from agglomerating fines of coal with starch. Such briquettes may be used as a substitute for the traditional coal, which when get burnt release less smoke, last 50% longer and is a renewable product, as it comes from wastes of cultivated forests.

The biofuel used may be used as a substitute for petrochemical fuel-oil while it may be used a supply for obtaining flavourings, solvents, paints, fuel, and other compounds. Unlike fuel-oil, bio-oil has no sulphur; therefore, when it burns no gases are released causing acid rain. With a fraction of bio-oil, at the pyrolysis plant they produced pyrolysis acid extract which is usually used as a natural insecticide and as a foliar fertiliser resistant to plagues and diseases.

Once the test phase has been completed, Melnechuk engineers submitted their project to the Incubator of Technologically Based Enterprises in Posadas (INCUTEMI) located at the Misiones Technological Park (PTMI) to obtain advisory for moving from a pilot plant to a company. Thus, INCUTEMI takes care of the legal aspects, business plan, permits, logistics, packaging, etc. With the support of INCUTEMI, they worked in Santa Ana the escalation of the plant and soon Santa Ana Bio Refinery will place its products in the market to replicate this model of Bio Refinery in other locations.


Renewable Firewood Plan

For the purpose of promoting forest plantations for production of energy, the government of Misiones defined through the Provincial Act No. XVI 106 that since January 1, 2012, it is forbidden to burn sawdust, shavings, cuttings, and any other biomass wastes derived from the forestry industry. Thus, this law aims at decreasing deforestation for consumption of native forest firewood and to promote an improvement in the energetic efficiency of dryers. The government of this province seeks to substitute the production, commercialisation, and consumption of firewood and charcoal from native forests by firewood from cultivated forests, sub- products and wastes from the forestry industry. Through the application of this law, the province of Misiones ensures the sustainable use of forest resources and the protection of the environment.

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  • First Waste Treatment Plant for Forestry Wastes in Argentina
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First Waste Treatment Plant for Forestry Wastes in Argentina

Distillation of pyroligneous liquor. Distillation of pyroligneous liquor (left) before distillation (right).

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