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Shelling Out for Energy Efficiency

by Ellen Hardy
20 March 2008, at 12:00am

NEWFOUNDLAND - A $2.4-million research project, between Memorial University Newfoundland and Dalhousie University aims to find a more efficient means of processing and disposing of crab and shrimp shells.

The three year study, headed up by Robert Helleur and Heather Manuel from MUN’s Marine Institute, will receive funding from the Atlantic Innovation Fund.

Helleur says that Quinlan Brothers, Newfoundland’s largest processor of snow crab and shrimp, approached them to come up with ways to use shellfish byproducts instead of continuously sending the materials to a landfill. The seafood business processes more than 20 million pounds of snow crab and 40 million pounds of shrimp every year and has plans to build production facility for the chitin and a laboratory where research can be carried out during the three-year grant-funded period.

The primary interest is in chitin, a major component of the creatures’ shells.

Over the past several years, waste management for seafood processors has become important both environmentally and financially, because of the various useful products that can come from the waste. These include drilling fluid, pigments, cosmetics, and components of water treatment systems.

By-Product Value

“Chitin and various other fish by-products are processed here in Newfoundland through mechanical and chemical deprotonation, and can produce valuable products for markets around the world,” said Helleur.

Deprotonation is the process of removing a proton from a molecule.

During the past year, Helleur and his teams have been working on a plan to harvest the chitin material and various other shell waste by-products. Unlike other processing companies, Helleur’s team is processing the shell directly from the plant, and then peeling the shrimps while shells are stabilized and processed. This technique produces a high quality chitin that is almost the same as the natural material.

Ellen Hardy