Mar 20, 2009
Marine algae biofuel pilot project launched in the Eastern CapeBack
Engineering|Expertise|Port|Port Elizabeth|Africa|Cement|CoAL|Industrial|Marine|Phytolutions|PROJECT|Systems|Africa|Germany|Cement Factories|Chemical Technology|Green Technology|Products|Systems|Eastern Cape|Ben Zeelie|Power|Eastern Cape|BIOFUELS|Biofuels Technology|Bioprocessing
© Reuse this
This 'green technology' could ultimately be rolled out across the country and into other parts of Africa.
The use of algae as one of the next-generation sources of biofuel has long been a subject of controversy, with past schemes both locally and abroad giving rise to dramatic claims – but with no hard proof.
However, research being carried out by Jacobs University, in Germany, using marine microalgae to capture, through photosynthesis, the carbon dioxide in flue gases at two major power stations, is yielding impressive results. A low-cost, custom-built 800-m² photobioreactor – set up at a lignite coal-based power plant – has been converting carbon dioxide into biomass since August last year.
Jacobs University has now partnered with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), in Port Elizabeth, to expand the research with the intention of establishing pilot sites at various Eastern Cape industrial sources – including breweries, refineries and cement factories – by early next year. The next step is to partner with major industrial facilities, both nationally and in other African countries.
Underpinning the German-South African partnership is a memorandum of understanding, signed in December between Phytolutions, which is jointly owned by Jacobs University and several German investors, and InnoVenton, NMMU’s internationally recognised institute of chemical technology.
InnoVenton’s Professor Ben Zeelie says the Eastern Cape was selected for the pilot project as it boasts “optimal coastal climatic conditions [in which algae can thrive], along with a mix of industrial activity”. That, coupled with InnoVenton’s expertise in bioprocessing, made it the obvious choice.
“The merging of the two scientific capabilities and the proven ability of both to undertake and demonstrate the engineering and viability of the integrated systems are of huge significance and contrast with the negative local and international publicity surrounding past schemes to achieve real results from this next-generation biofuels technology.”
By June, a 200-m² photobioreactor – capable of producing 2 t of dry biomass a year – will be up and running at NMMU. This will be followed early next year by the establishment of two 1 000-m² photobioreactors at sites adjacent to interested industrial partners, to evaluate the technology in industrial applications.
“It is envisaged that, within two years, the technology will have been optimised for African conditions, with photobioreactors sized to match carbon dioxide mitigation targets,” says Zeelie.
To keep costs down, the photobioreactors will be built locally by black economically empowered small and medium-zed enterprises, based on the original Phytolutions designs, with the algae housed in plastic bags on metal frames, and the carbon dioxide piped to each bag through long tubes. Phytolutions has developed software to monitor the process.
Once harvested, the algae will be turned into dry biomass and converted into biofuels, glycerine and protein.
Zeelie says the project’s main goal is the mitigation of carbon dioxide into a form where it is “permanently sequestered on a significant scale, based on an economically and technically sustainable technology”.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines
Other News This Week News
Recent Research Reports
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Road and Rail 2014 (PDF Report)
This six-page brief covers key developments in the road and rail industries over the past 12 months, including details of South Africa’s road and rail network and prospects for both sectors.
Real Economy Insight: Steel 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the steel industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the global and South African steel and stainless steel markets, South Africa’s major steel producers and events that have shaped these markets.
This Week's Magazine
Multinational semiconductor chipmaker corporation Intel announced its national campaign to further acquire partners to drive its She Will Connect programme, an initiative that aims to expand digital literacy skills to young women in developing countries, further into...
South Africa's MeerKAT radio telescope array programme should get back on schedule within a few months. This assurance has been given by SKA South Africa (SKA SA) associate director: science and technology Prof Justin Jonas. Early last month, Science and Technology...
The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA’s) Metrorail service will remain a subsidised service following its current multibillion-rand rolling stock, station, depot and signalling upgrade programme. PRASA group CEO Lucky Montana has allayed fears that...
The uncertainties around the remediation of affected areas as addressed in the Contaminated Land Provisions in the National Environmental Management: Waste Act No 59 of 2008 will possibly spark litigation and disputes between landowners and businesses, contractors...
South Africa is currently the largest component of the African Development Bank’s (AfDB’s) active portfolio in Southern Africa, comprising 62.5% of the bank’s $7.9-billion exposure to the 12-country region – the second largest beneficiary is Mauritius, which...