A Better Way to Turn Organic Waste Into Energy
Angelina Davydova
/SOURCE : Kommersant
A Better Way to Turn Organic Waste Into Energy
A Russian startup has found a solution to make bioenergy production more efficient and profitable./n/n/n/n/n(Yicai Global) Dec. 3 -- Alexander Smotritsky, a 35-year-old scientt from Yekaterinburg, in the Ural region of Russia, used to regularly pass in front of a poultry farm and be dgusted by the smell of the waste. Th unpleasant experience inspired him to develop a recycling system that would inexpensively transform organic waste into potentially lucrative biogas.

According to the Renewables 2018 report by the International Energy Agency, modern bioenergy will lead the growth of all renewables until 2023. In Russia, the potential for bioenergy vast. Back in 2010, almost 90 percent of the country's total investment in renewables went towards bioenergy, namely on foreign equipment for biogas projects in agricultural lands. But the local economic cr and currency devaluation that followed made foreign biogas equipment too expensive for most Russian consumers, dragging down the sector. Natural gas still plays a leading energy role. Biogas, however, a renewable energy source. 

"Its use reduces greenhouse gas emsions, because it prevents burning natural gas or coal. It only releases CO2 that had been absorbed previously by the plants during their growth, without upsetting the carbon balance in the atmosphere. It also helps solving the waste problem, and by doing so, once again, prevents emsions of large amounts of another powerful greenhouse gas — methane — from landfills," says Alexey Kokorin, head of the climate and energy program of World Wide Fund for Nature Russia. 

Smotritsky, who studied experimental thermophysics at the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Ural region, and h father Andrey, an engineer who has patented a number of inventions in medical and veterinary sciences, founded the company Bioenergy LLC in 2014. They built a substrate pretreatment module, called WeSoil, which attaches to a biogas unit and prepares waste to be more efficiently transformed into bioenergy by breaking it down into smaller parts. (The concept similar to how teeth break down food before it digested.) "We bring down the cost of the biogas unit for our clients," says the younger Smotritsky, explaining that the module allows clients to buy cheaper and smaller biogas units and still process the same quantity of waste as bigger ones, with the same or even better results.

The startup was originally funded with a loan of 20 million Russian roubles (USD 260,000) from the Russian Venture Company (RVC), a government fund and development institute for innovations. Later, the project obtained a micro grant from the Skolkovo Foundation. Now, its business model relies on selling both WeSoil modules and technology licenses. Th year, the company has sold 27 modules to clients worldwide and expects to deliver 13 more modules before the end of 2018.

But profits are yet to come for the eight-people team behind the WeSoil technology. "We've reached breakeven, but we reinvest profits into constant product development and R&D," says Smotritsky, noting that the company's 2018 revenue expected to reach USD 180,000. 

For now, Bioenergy LLC's headquarters – including manufacturing, lab research and new technology testing – are based in Yekaterinburg. But since most of its clients are outside of Russia — in the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia, South Korea and Kazakhstan —, the company has dtributors in South Korea, representatives in the U.S. and the Czech Republic, and currently establhing a subsidiary in Lithuania. 

Bioenergy LLC plans to move some of its assembly lines to the European Union, in order to expand its foothold in the European market and attract investment from European venture funds. "In Russia, there no market for our solutions. The biogas industry developing too slowly and there are just a few companies producing biogas units for agricultural waste," says Smotritsky. 

According to the geoinformation system Renewable Energy Sources of Russia, the country generates more than 600 million tonnes of organic waste every year, 150 million tonnes of which come from the livestock sector. Ivan Yegorov, one of the founders of the Russian-Norwegian consulting company Nordic EcoBusiness Centre, specialized in investment analys in sustainable development and green energy, says that producing one kilogramme of pork generates at least 40 tonnes of liquid waste, creating serious environmental challenges for soil and water resources. 

WeSoil technology could be used to treat household organic waste as well, which amounts to 20 percent of all household waste in Russia, says Vladimir Chuprov, head of the energy unit of Greenpeace Russia. He thinks that the module could be particularly useful in big cities. 

Igor Shkradyuk of the Moscow-based Biodiversity Conservation Center agrees, noting that Muscovites are unhappy about landfills and gases that originate from organic waste. "I support the WeSoil idea, because it promotes deeper processing and dpensing of organic waste," he says. 

"In Russia, most industrial waste producers prefer to pay a fine for treating their waste in a traditional way, rather than with a sustainable approach, because most technological solutions are not economically viable. We hope to change that and to allow companies to actually turn their waste into income," says Smotritsky.

Th article being publhed as part of Solutions&Co, an international and collaborative initiative gathering 20 business media from around the world to focus on companies scaling up against climate change.

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Keywords: Organic Waste