Mar 20, 2009
Marine algae biofuel pilot project launched in the Eastern CapeBack
© 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
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
To subscribe email email@example.com or click here
To advertise email firstname.lastname@example.org or click here
Other Energy News
Most infrastructure investments on the African continent are in the energy sector, but power plants and transmission lines across Africa presently operate at a fraction of installed capacity due to insufficient maintenance and lack of modernisation.
The narrow focus on cost may be leading to misconceptions about the real value of energy storage, according to a new report by the World Energy Council (WEC) called ‘E-storage – shifting from cost to value’.
Updated 25 minutes ago A very serious structural problem is playing itself out in China and not merely a reorienting to consumption-led economy, says Council on Global Enterprise and Emerging Markets director Dr Harry Broadman. Broadman, who delivered the second keynote address at the 2016...
Updated 37 minutes ago The use of an SMS that directs Gauteng e-toll users to pay outstanding fees is illegal, said the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) on Wednesday. Outa, which changed its name from Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance recently, said it needed the public to...
Recent Research Reports
Construction 2016: A review of South Africa's construction industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2016 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; key participants; local demand; geographic diversification; corporate activity; black economic...
Energy Roundup – February 2016 (PDF Report)
The February 2016 roundup covers activities across South Africa for December 2015 and January 2016 and includes details of a Government Gazette notice that confirms Cabinet’s decision to move ahead with the 9 600 MW nuclear procurement programme; State-owned power...
Energy Roundup - December 2015 (PDF Report)
The December 2015 roundup includes details of State-owned utility Eskom’s application to claw back R22.8-billion; South Africa’s ranking as an investment destination for renewable energy; and a nuclear expert’s thoughts on reactor designs for South Africa’s nuclear...
Water 2015: A review of South Africa's water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2015 Report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context but also in the African and global context in terms of supply and demand, water stress and insecurity, and access to water and sanitation, besides others.
Input Sector Review: Pumps 2015 (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2015 Input Sector Review on Pumps provides an overview of South Africa’s pumps industry with particular focus on pump manufacture and supply, aftermarket services, marketing strategies, local and export demand, imports, sector support, investment...
Liquid Fuels 2015: A review of South Africa's liquid fuels sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Liquid Fuels 2015 Report examines these issues in the context of South Africa’s business environment; oil and gas exploration; fuel pricing; the development of the country’s biofuels industry; the logistics of transporting liquid fuels; and...
This Week's Magazine
Power and automation company ABB is in the launch phase of its highest payload, multipurpose industrial robot, the IRB 8700. The robot has a reach of 3.5 m and can handle a payload of up to 800 kg. “When designing the IRB 8700, we emphasised reach and payload, as...
Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a critical facet of a connected security ecosystem, as controlling the confidentiality, integrity and authorisation of data access and use is key to securing new digital business channels. However, companies face several...
Data underpins digital business models, the digital economy, the Internet of Things and the fundamental changes in the ways people interact and protecting data is crucial to securing new ways of doing business, says T-Systems South Africa information and...
The City of Cape Town will issue a tender for the procurement of electric buses for its MyCiTi service, in line with the council’s commitment to lower its carbon footprint, says executive mayor Patricia de Lille. The tender, to be advertised early in February, will...
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority signed a R10-million contract last month with local tailings storage facility specialists Cyclone Engineering Projects to remove about 100 000 m3 of dredge spoil obstructing the natural course of the uMfolozi river, in...