01 Jul

Pilot plant to treat olive vegetable water

The Environment Ministry will establish a pilot plant by the end of this year to treat the liquid residue of the olive-pressing process, as it pollutes the soil and water resources.

The JD500,000 EU-funded plant, to be built either at the Ikeider holding area or the Jordan University of Science and Technology, will start operating within four to six months with a daily capacity of 5-10 cubic metres, according to Adnan Khdair, director of integrated waste management of the Olive Oil Pressing Industries Programme.

The programme was launched in 2005 to introduce elements of an integrated waste management system to the olive oil sector in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Khdair said the plant will help curb the environmental problems caused by olive vegetable water (OVW), which contains large quantities of organic matter, solid material and oil that are hard to treat.

The country’s 105 olive mills produce 200,000 cubic metres of OVW annually, which poses an environmental challenge, he said.

“The ministry decided to establish the plant as studies indicate that OVW harms the environment as it contains chemicals,” Khdair said, adding that the plant is part of the ministry’s measures to address environmental problems resulting from the by-products of olive presses.

These by-products include olive solid waste (OSW) and OVW, the ministry officials said.

“OSW used to pose an environmental problem as presses used to dump it in valleys, where it would decay and emit a foul odour. Over the past few years, however, mill owners have started selling OSW as it is a good resource for heating purposes, especially after the hike in oil prices,” Khdair said.

Mohammad Bani Mustafa, director of Al Raimouni Olive Mill, said in the past, olive oil presses used to throw away the solid residue, “but that changed after the hike in fuel prices. Now, the solid waste is sold at JD40-70 per tonne.”

It is used to make charcoal and a substance that has become a common fuel substitute, known as “jift” in the local market.

“The problem at the current stage, however, is OVW, which can pollute water resources and the soil as it contains chemicals,” Bani Mustafa told The Jordan Times.

OVW is a big problem in many parts of the world. Many countries have restrictions against dumping agricultural waste products into city sewers or streams and rivers, according to the olive oil source, www.oliveoilsource.com.

“Most areas allow a certain amount to be sprayed back into the orchard if it doesn’t impact the water supply. The vegetable water contains valuable trace elements and potassium, phosphorus, etc., as well as organic compounds,” according to the website.

Khdair said the treated water could be used for agricultural purposes and the biogas emitted by the water can generate power, thus conserving the environment and helping owners of presses.

“I think that the plant will help us; at least it will preserve the environment. I pay almost JD10,000 annually to dispose of the water in the Ikeider holding area during the olive oil season, which starts in mid-October and lasts until mid-February,” said Bani Mustafa.

The mill director said he pays JD25 for each tanker conveying the water from press to the holding area, and needs some 400 tankers.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture figures, 1.250 million dunums of land in the country are planted with olives, and the sector produces some 253,000 tonnes of olives annually.

By-products that may result from oil extraction

• Stones or pits — Accumulates in plants where pitted or stuffed table olives are produced. Can be used for heating, building materials or for activated charcoal.

• Crude Olive Cake — The residue which remains after the first pressing of olives through traditional and continuous machines. There is still a small amount of oil in this cake. If not going on for further processing, this cake is often used for heating, for animal feed supplement or returned to the olive grove as a mulch.

• Exhausted Olive Cake — The residue that is left after the above crude olive cake has any remaining oil extracted from it by using solvents such as hexane. This cake is also often used for heating, for animal feed supplement or returned to the olive grove as a mulch.

• Partly Destoned Olive Cake — Produced if some of the crushed olive seeds are removed from the paste after processing. This cake is also often used for heating, for animal feed supplement or returned to the olive grove as a mulch.

• Olive Pulp — The residual paste which is produced if whole olive seeds are removed from the paste prior to processing. This residual paste has a very high water content and is difficult to store or dispose of.

• Vegetable Water — The brown watery liquid which has been separated from the oil by centrifugation or sedimentation after pressing. The invention of two phase oil extraction has reduced the pollution problems of this waste product by up to 90 per cent.

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One Response to “Pilot plant to treat olive vegetable water”

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