I am a researcher at University Paris 13 working on pyrolysis and bio-oil valorization for the production of chemicals. My team is part of an interdisciplinary project called Olizero, and our aims are valorizing olive trees pruning waste. The field of study is Sierra Mágina, a rural county, located in Andalusia (Southern Spain). It is highly specialized in olive-growing, with 80% of arable lands occupied by olive groves. Until few years ago, pruning waste was fully burnt in the agricultural plots, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. The practice has been partially replaced by chopping and spreading the residues on the ground. In the project, we demonstrated the risk of such practice due to the presence of potential pathogens and we proposed pyrolysis as an alternative way of providing a sterile fertilizer along with energy/chemicals. 

In my laboratory, I was not able to perform the bench scale experiments required in order to assess the feasibility of our proposition. I remembered Paris Fokaides had previously sent his PhD student Elias to Aston thanks to BRISK2 and so I started to write a research proposal. Aston and I agreed the terms of the research and the process of registration on line was quick and simple. In less than two months, I received an acceptance email.  

During my three week-visit, I had full access to all necessary equipment in the laboratory. Research Fellow Dr Scott Banks explained how the different devices work and helped me perform the experiments. The purpose of the experiments was to complete Elias’ previous work with the fast pyrolysis of kernels at 450 and 550°C and branches at 450, 500 and 550°C.  

The same non catalytic bubbling fluidised bed reactor was used to estimate the yields and physical properties of the liquid, solid and gaseous products. Ovens, grinders, sieves and amoisture analyzer were used for biomass preparation. Analyses of the pyrolysis products were performed (mass balance, ash content, water content). Since the schedule was tight, we did our best to finish the experiments on time and Scott was kind enough to finish the pending analyses after my departure. I feel really proud that this work could be achieved since this project could have an important impact on local stakeholders in the Mediterranean who are looking for waste management solutions. Indeed, I believe it will help with the feasibility study of biorefinery projects on their territory. 

My visit to EBRI through the BRISK2 Transnational Access was an extraordinary experience that I strongly recommend to any student and young researcher. This enriching experienced gave me a lot of new ideas. Beside the direct impact on my project, it is an excellent opportunity to meet new people from different backgrounds who share the same interest in bioenergy. It provide me with the opportunity to discover a different way of life and explore the city of Birmingham. 

Finally, I would like to thank Professor Tony Bridgwater and all the staff of EBRI at Aston University for welcoming me and for all the fruitful discussions we had. I acknowledge in particular Dr Scott Banks for his continuous support, Project Administrator Pippa Try for the organization and Felipe Rego for his help in the lab.