Biodiesel - the World's Most Eco-Friendly Fuel Already in Georgia!

As a result of successful Austrian-Georgian cooperation, the first biodiesel enterprise has opened in Georgia. Martin Mitelbak, PHD Doctor of Chemistry; Murman Pataraia, the founder of Biodiesel Georgia; Rusudan Ramazashvili, General Director of Frego; and Kakha Karchkhadze, renowned researcher of Renewable Energy at Ilia State University, managed to implement a large-scale plan and contribute to the development of Georgia's bright, and cleaner, future.

Since July 6, every driver in Georgia who has a diesel car has been able to buy B10 biodiesel at Frego petrol stations- a Georgian product, and choose not to pollute the air and to become a participant of the important process of ecological restoration.

How did you start working on the project and how did you implement it in Georgia?

(Martin): We started working on the chemical creation of diesel at our university a long time ago. The first attempts were conducted in the 1980s. We wanted to test the product practically in order to take it out of the laboratory. The main objective was to use biodiesel fuel in agricultural machinery. Later, the idea was developed to cover all segments of transport. Georgia is a pioneer in the field of biodiesel production in the region and I am very glad that to be a participant of this process.

(Kakha): Over the last two decades, while millions of tons of biodiesel was being produced worldwide, we in Georgia were "sleeping peacefully" and complaining about the rise in oil prices. In the end, we found ourselves “in the claws of a big monster” and in a poor condition, totally dependent on imported fuel. Fuel consumption and car restriction is so unrealistic that this process is not even implemented. There is a severe ecological condition in the city, mainly caused by transport. The danger of carcinogenic diseases in Tbilisi today is high. That's why it was so important for Georgians to find alternative and eco-friendly ways of producing fuel. The answer to all these problems and the effective solution is the production of biodiesel.

Biodiesel is not a new product to the world and now it’s Georgia’s turn. The US produces 12 million tons of biodiesel annually, Europe – 10. These countries produce alternative and renewable fuel and use it in their urban environments. I came up with the idea of producing biodiesel in Georgia while working at US universities. We introduced the technology, created the first samples of biodiesel, and for the first time in the history of Georgia, the first cars were run not on oil products, but on fuel obtained from plants.

This successful project was followed by cooperation between science and business. Oil Company Frego contacted Ilia University and we decided to commercialize this project. We worked intensively for one year, improved the technology, selected a space for manufacturing, brought the equipment, built a biodiesel factory and started manufacturing. We have already released the first products of biodiesel, which were snapped up by Frego.

(Rusudan) The idea of selling the B10 fuel was born at Frego a few years ago. Then we came up with the idea to start manufacturing locally instead of bringing the fuel from abroad. Manufacturing in Georgia is better as it helps local manufacturers to utilize used oil, which is itself quite important in this process. There were no utilization rules before, and the used oil was sent to drainage, soil, or chicken farms, which pollutes the environment. Gastronomers such as McDonald's and Wendy's employ utilization. So far, we have signed a contract with McDonald's and there is a selection of small restaurants set to deliver used oil to us. It will be very important for Georgia’s economy and for the environment, too. Biodiesel will protect the environment from harmful effects. The product is already available at Frego petrol stations in Tbilisi and in various regions throughout Georgia.

What are the distinctive characteristics of the product?

(Kakha) Biodiesel is a high-quality fuel. Biodiesel has a number of indicators, such as lubrication coefficient, etc. that are higher than oil, meaning that the engine will work better and longer. Most importantly, biodiesel has a great advantage in terms of ecology. While using biodiesel, sulfur dioxide is not spread and the population does not get poisoned. Straight diesel fuel pollutes the air, while biodiesel is the more eco-friendly option.

(Rusudan) B10 Fuel is a combination of Europian standard diesel and biodiesel. The biodiesel portion in it is up to 10%, and the exact amount of biodiesel is explained in our regulations, according to which the amount of biodiesel changes. It might be less in winter, but this information will be avaliable to our customers.

The amount of Sulfur in our fuel is so low that the harmful substances do not spread while using it. This is a prior condition of taking care of the environment. According to European experience and our practices, the most suitable for cars is the 10% fuel combination. If we compare it to the 10 best European BPMs, the B10 is distinguished by containing a bit more oil, less sulfur and other harmful mixtures. In Georgia, diesels containing a high amount of sulfur are sold, while biodiesel is much safer for the environment. It costs 2.42 GEL at this stage and if we compare it to high-quality diesels of other brands, the price is quite acceptable.

In Georgia, we’ve been facing problems regarding the harmful emissions of public transport in recent years. Do you think the existing fuels used for municipal transport will be replaced by biodiesel, just like in Austria?

(Kakha): In this case, Tbilisi would set everyone an example of how minimal financial expenses and improvement of the city's ecological situation can be possible in a short period of time. Public transport in Austria works entirely on biodiesel. And now we’ve opened the enterprise, biodiesel became available in Tbilisi too. It is possible that the yellow buses and mini-buses will gradually switch to the biodiesel and the level of air pollution emitted by municipal transport will be significiantly reduced, perhaps by the end of the year in Tbilisi. If there is the right attitude and political will to solve the ecological problems, Tbilisi can become the first capital city not only in Transcaucasia but in the whole of Eastern Europe where municipal transport works entirely on eco-friendly fuel.

(Rusudani): If we see the State’s interest and initiative, we will be happy to satisfy the problem of municipal transport pollution.

What are your expectations in Georgia? Will we see biodiesel at other companies' petrol stations?

(Martin): Based on Austrian experience, they could act more quickly. We will use this fuel for heavy-load vehicles at the outset. Control is the main thing in biodiesel production and we have this aspect at the highest level. At first, we produced a few dozen tonnes, but now we need more in industrial production and therefore, alongside increasing the quantity, we plan to develop quality control mechanisms and introduce new techniques.

(Murman): I have an important statement for your readers: first, restaurants should employ the proper utilization of used cooking oil. Using it for a second time is absolutely unacceptable, as it harms human health. I call on everyone to use used oil as biodiesel fuel. Used oil should not be sent to drainages and should not be poured away. The use of oil in biodiesel production is a serious opportunity to get rid of waste in terms of environmental pollution.

(Rusudan) The idea of selling B10 was to reduce emissions in the city. Nowadays, the air in the capital city is so polluted that living here is becoming impossible. This issue is a problem for everyone. Consequently, if biodiesel is used by the majority of cars, the situation will improve significantly. As soon as the production of "Biodiesel Georgia" is increased so that it meets our demands, we will sell the product to any company.

Tell us about the future plans

(Kakha) We are going to work in several directions: developing the technology and increasing production. At this stage, we produce 12 tons per month. We hope that this number will be significiantly increased by the end of the year. Now, our product is B10 biodiesel. We think that B20 biodiesel will be added to it soon.

There are already individuals, corporate clients and institutions who have shown serious interest in using our biodiesel. They realize that it is time for Georgia to switch to European and American standards, which has been working successfully in the West for a long time. Since ‘Biodiesel Georgia’ started implementing this work and the company Frego brought it into its branches, Georgia already has the pleasure of using alternative, clean fuel.

(Murman) The most important factor is that we start simultaneously working on more large-scale projects, which means that in the next three years, we will construct a larger enterprise equipped with the latest technologies, where we will mobilize an investment of 10 million Euros, while the number of employees will increase to 150. At this stage, biodiesel is avaliable only in the Frego network in Georgia, but in case of increased production, we will offer the product to other networks as well.

08 November 2018 19:20