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MSU Researches Shrimp Processing Waste for Biofuels

US - Scientists at Mississippi State University are working to turn shrimp processing waste into a diesel-like fuel.

The shrimp parts that are not used to fill our stomachs could someday help fill tanks on fishing boats, vehicles and anything else that runs on diesel fuel.

"The main purpose of this research project is to find a higher value for the shrimp waste," said Todd French, an assistant professor at MSU.

Seafood-based biodiesel would help processors eliminate some waste disposal cost, which has been estimated at about $145,000 a year per producer. As a building block for fuel, the waste also would bring additional income streams from the products created by it.

Scientists already know that seafood waste contains the materials necessary to produce oil, French said.

The main ingredient is chitin (a carbohydrate found in shrimp, crab and lobster shells).

Researchers will take the seafood processing waste, pre-treat it with an acid and add it to vats of bacteria, yeast and fungi – a mixture French refers to as "our bugs." The microorganisms eat the chitin, convert it into fat and store it.

The fat can be harvested in the form of an oil.

"The oil our microorganisms are making is similar to canola oil or corn oil," French said.

The process already is under way with synthetic seafood ingredients at MSU. The real seafood waste will arrive next month from Gollott's Seafood in Biloxi.

Oil companies can take the oil produced from the seafood waste and generate diesel fuel, French said. The biofuel likely would be mixed at 5 percent or 20 per cent biofuel to 95 or 80 per cent diesel. The biofuel may help decrease dependence on imported oil.

"We are looking at an oil that can feed domestic use," French said.

Funding for the biofuel research project comes from the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.