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Biodiesel

To date there has not been a heavy emphasis on biodiesel in Iceland. However, a new biodiesel plant was constructed recently in the northern town of Akureyri, Iceland’s second-largest urban area. It will use waste vegetable oil and animal fat as feedstock. The plant was designed by the Icelandic engineering firm, Mannvit.

Biodiesel is produced from waste fat derived from food production or energy crops. The biodiesel can be blended with normal diesel oil and thus easily be distributed through the current infrastructure. The advantages of Icelandic biodiesel production and use are twofold: lower carbon emissions and domestic production, both of which result in increased energy independence and less dependence on imported fossil fuels.

The biodiesel from the plant in Akureyri is blended with normal diesel fuel. It will mostly be used to power Akureyri’s public transport system. However, the local fisheries sector has also started using this green fuel for trawlers.

There are a few other ongoing startup projects in the Icelandic biodiesel industry. Making biodiesel from rapeseed is one option. Rapeseed oil is a well-known biofuel and can be substituted for diesel fuel.

According to some estimates, the use of Icelandic rapeseed oil could reduce the high amount of the diesel Iceland now imports. Some of the larger, currently uncultivated areas in Iceland seem well-suited for growing rapeseed, particularly in the Northern and Southern areas of the country. A few such projects are already under way.

It is estimated that in order to provide for a tenth of Iceland’s fuel needs, 20,000 hectares of land would need to be devoted to rapeseed production. In addition to the biodiesel, the crushed rapeseed seeds from which the oil is extracted can be used in livestock feed.

Another example of a biodiesel project being considered in Iceland is producing biodiesel from algae. This would involve using new domestic energy-saving light emitting diode (LED) technology and having good access to geothermal energy. The biodiesel produced by this method might be biogas, bioethanol and/or biobutanol. Byproducts could be used as animal feedstock or fertilizers.

The Icelandic clean-tech company Vistvæn Orka Ltd. is currently researching what areas in the country are best suitable for algae cultivation. The most promising areas appear to be  the Reykjanes peninsula in Southwest Iceland and Þeistareykir and Krafla in the Northeast. New geothermal power plants are already being planned in all those areas.

Vistvæn Orka has achieved success in the development of LED technology, most often used [in Iceland?] for greenhouse lighting and cultivation purposes. This technology reduces energy usage during cultivation by an impressive 50 percent compared to conventional greenhouse lamps. Vistvæn Orka may be one of the most interesting clean-tech startups in Iceland.