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Development of a combined Waste-to-BioEnergy system for heat and power production in rural areas of Colombia

Programme name: Industry-Academia Partnership Programme, Royal Academy of Engineering

Project partners: Northumbria University (UK); Universidad Industrial de Santander (Colombia); Gematech SAS (Colombia)


Project title: Development of a small-scale combined Waste-to-BioEnergy system with solar Organic Rankine Cycle for heat and power production in rural areas of Colombia.


Project lead (UK): Dr Ulugbek Azimov

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Northumbria University




Project co-lead (UK): Dr Madeleine Combrinck

Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering

Northumbria University


Project leads (Colombia):


Prof Paola Gautier-Maradei

Professor of Chemical Engineering

Universidad Industrial de Santander


Dr Liliana Castro Molano 

Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering

Universidad Industrial de Santander


Industrial partner:

Dr Javier Mauricio Castellanos

Gematech SAS



Mr Luis Patino

Master of Science in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Technologies, Northumbria University


Dr Claudia Tavera

PhD in Chemical Engineering

Universidad Industrial de Santander


Mr Jaime Jaimes-Estévez

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering

Universidad Industrial de Santander


As a developing economy, Colombia is facing a formidable challenge in navigating through a complex energy demand-supply gap and waste problem. The country's energy supply is highly centralized and relies excessively on the state energy company. Lack of infrastructure has led to poor electrification in rural areas, which are sparsely located and populated by low-income communities who pay a subsidized tariff that increases the burden of government spending. Whereas the demand in rural areas is estimated up to 30% of the total number, penetration of reliable energy supply to these areas is still limited. At the same time, waste continuously produced as by-products of daily consumption is also an issue. The waste is increasingly dominated by non-naturally degradable materials and is unfortunately still largely disposed as landfills or openly burned, causing health and environmental hazards. If not properly handled, the accumulated waste will pose a greater threat to the environment in rural communities. The project will develop a comprehensive system of Waste-to-BioEnergy (WtBE) that includes integrated solar Organic Rankine Cycle to generate electricity. The developed small-scale system will convert organic waste to biogas and generate electricity for farms and rural areas of Colombia. This project will have an impact on a variety of stakeholders at different levels: for individuals it will contribute to a cleaner environment and wellbeing; for organisations, it will initiate new R&D projects and investments to WtBE sector; for Colombian economy it will help to contribute to the government’s electrification policy that tends to supply electricity in remotely populated areas. The project will initiate joint Industry-Academia research involving academic partners Universidad Industrial de Santander in Colombia and University of Northumbria in the UK and an industrial partner, Gematech S.A.S in Colombia, on development and implementation of a small-scale WtBE systems with integrated solar heat recovery.

1. To develop a new comprehensive thermodynamic model that incorporates tools to describe the small-scale WtBE and solar heat-to-electricity conversion and design of a solar ORC for small-scale WtBE system.


2. To carry out the system functionality analysis by validating the model against the required heat and electrical power generation by small-scale WtBE system in local areas of Colombia and establish links with local industries for development of cost-effective manufacturing of system components.


3. To establish a research group at UIS with the focus on waste-to-energy research and application of research outcomes into teaching programmes of UIS and Northumbria University.

1. Formulation and characterization of local crop residue, cacao waste, food waste, wastewater available in rural areas of Colombia and their calorific values. Analysis of the requirements for small-scale Waste-to-BioEnergy (WtBE) system to be used in rural areas of Colombia.


2. Analysis of biogas production cycle on a small scale – survey the consumption and energy production and environmental impacts at different life cycle stages. Study of possible intermediate end products such as primarily alcohols, aldehydes, and organic acids co-occurring during waste-to-energy conversion process in anaerobic digestion.


3. Development of comprehensive thermodynamic model of waste-to-energy conversion.


4. System design of integrated small-scale solar ORC and run of a series of simulations for system optimizsation. Design of individial components for solar ORC.


5. Coupling WtBE modular system with solar ORC modular system.


6. Development of a final system design for WtBE with solar ORC.


7. Development of the local energy supply and demand mapping.


8. Participation in the Webinar in Colombia on WtBE systems and power production.


9. Development of pre-industrial concept of WtBE with integrated solar ORC to be implemented in local areas of Colombia.This will be led by UIS with involvement of Northumbria University and Gematech S.A.S.


10. Development of teaching course “Waste-to-BioEnergy Conversion: System Modeling and Design”. This will be collaboratively developed by Northumbria University and UIS. The course will be incorporated into the curriculum of Renewable Energy programmes of Northumbria University and UIS and will include case studies produced and supported by Gematech S.A.S.


1. W. Foster, U Azimov, P Gauthier-Maradei, LC. Molano, M. Combrinck, J. Munoz, JJ. Esteves, L. Patino. Waste-to-energy conversion technologies in the UK: processes and barriers – a review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol.135, 2020, pp.110226


2. Luis Felipe Patiño, Ulugbek Azimov, Claudia P. Tavera, Javier Mauricio Castellanos, Liliana Castro and Paola Gauthier-Maradei. Design, modelling and optimisation of a small-scale Solar Organic Rankine Cycle system for rural power generation. The 4th International Conference on Renewable Energy and Environment Engineering, Florence Italy, 27-30 August 2021.



The preliminary results of this project have been presented at the RedBioLAC webinar in Latin America:

Title: Improving the performance of anaerobic biodigestion through the implementation of the solar Organic Rankine Cycle.



Thermodynamic model of waste-to-energy conversion


Waste-to-BioEnergy system with solar Organic Rankine Cycle system design


Teaching course


Waste-to-BioEnergy system with solar Organic Rankine Cycle demonstration prototype

Visit to UK by Colombian partners July 2019

Visit to Colombia by UK partners January 2020

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