Jun 15, 2007
‘Dead’ biofuel-from-algae initiative leaves a stinkBack
Engineering|Johannesburg|Africa|De Beers Fuel|Diesel|Green- Fuel Technology Corporation|GreenFuel Technology|Africa|Germany|South Africa|United States|International Space Station|InternationalnSpace Station|Kelvin Power Station|Algae Technology|Mining|Products|Service|Sunflower Oil|Massachusetts Institute Of Technology|South AfricannRevenue Service|Frik|Isaac|Isaac Berzin|Matthias Wackerbauer|Paul Rodzianko|Power|Massachusetts|Algae Technology|BIOFUELS|Diesel |Third-generation Technology
© Reuse this
Most investors in the company, who invested up to R6-million each in biodiesel plants, in what was trumpeted to be the world’s first fuel-franchising scheme, today have nothing but paper to show for their money.
As far as Engineering News can establish, not one plant has been built.
The amount of money lost by investors, and the number of investors who have lost money, could not be determined owing to conflicting information on the value and number of plants sold.
De Beers Fuel – which has no connection with diamond-mining giant De Beers – marketed the concept under the Infiniti Biodiesel brand name.
Shareholders were promised plants capable of producing tens of thousands of litres of biodiesel every day, and exclusive offset areas.
These plants would initially process conventional vegetable oils, like sunflower oil.
However, from the company’s public launch onwards, a more exciting, if somewhat strange, source of alternative feedstock was punted – algae.
De Beers Fuel started a relationship with Green- Fuel Technology Corporation, of the US, which had been working on the development of a strain of algae suited to the production of biofuels.
One of the founders of GreenFuel Technology, Dr Isaac Berzin, researched the use of algae on the International Space Station and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Berzin and GreenFuel Technology inter- national MD Paul Rodzianko visited South Africa in November.
De Beers Fuel founder Frik de Beer and adviser to the company’s board, Hendy Schoon-bee, sang the praises of algae as a feedstock for biofuels production during a media visit to the company’s demonstration algae bioreactor in Mookgopong (formerly Naboomspruit), which coincided with Berzin and Rodzianko’s visit.
Also accompanying the group was Stretch Fowler, of Green Star Products, the US company contracted by De Beers to build 90 high-pressure biodiesel reactors, and Matthias Wackerbauer, of MWK Biogas, of Germany.
The experts expanded on the potential of algae technology to provide large volumes of algae feedstock for biofuels production in South Africa.
The fact that De Beers was the first company to receive a licence for commercial biofuels production from the South African Revenue Service was also mentioned frequently.
At the time of the visit, the media was told about De Beers Fuel’s ambitious plans to produce feedstock for between 16-billion litres and 24-billion litres of biofuels a year.
Moreover, by enabling the propagation of large volumes of relatively cheap renewable algae feedstock, De Beers would limit the use of food-crop feedstocks, such as sunflower and soy, in local biofuels production.
Besides giving South Africa biofuels, algae technology would consume carbon dioxide, as algae depended on large amounts of carbon dioxide for its rapid growth.
Plans were made known to deploy a fuel- assessment unit at the Kelvin power station, in Johannesburg.
The technology would also be tested in other locations in South Africa.
To prove De Beers’ abilities, visitors were shown a production plant that, according to De Beer, produced 144 000 /d of biodiesel and was being run 25 days a month, and had 50-million litres of diesel on its order book every month.
However, on April 1, popular investigative programme Carte Blanche ‘exposed’ the company when it aired a programme on De Beers Fuel.
When questioned by Carte Blanche, De Beer said that the company had only sold 41 000 of biodiesel and had 39 000 in its tanks, ready to be sold.
And, while investors in De Beers and Infiniti Biodiesel were given the impression that algae was an almost immediate solution to the antici- pated shortage of vegetable oil for biofuels production, in truth, the production of algae feedstock is viewed as a third-generation technology.
Rodzianko then said that, “on an accelerated schedule, the
earliest that a commercial-scale facility would be available
[would] probably be the end of
Even after being exposed, De Beers continued to publish on its website unrealistic claims about its abilities.
The company also continued to point out its relationship with GreenFuel Technology, which had received the prestigious Frost and Sullivan technology innovation award of the year.
GreenFuel has since terminated the licensing agreement with De
Beers Fuel owing to “nonperformance”.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other News This Week News
Updated 26 minutes ago Despite several real estate investment trusts (REITs) extolling the virtues of portfolio diversification, Resolution Capital Australia MD Andrew Parsons has cautioned against this strategy, advising trusts to rather simplify and specialise their asset portfolio....
Updated 1 hour 50 minutes ago Global crude steel output in September, at 134.4-million tonnes, was marginally lower than the 134.5-million tonnes produced in September 2013. According to the World Steel Association (worldsteel), China produced 67.5-million tonnes of crude steel in September,...
Updated 5 hours ago Stand a chance to win a CAT Phone. Subscribe to Engineering News & Mining Weekly at a 30% discounted rate. The weekly print magazines will be posted to your preferred postal address. Also gain online access to: Project Browser - providing an overview of latest...
Recent Research Reports
Defence 2014: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Defence 2014 report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key participants in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial multibillion-rand...
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move road...
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.
This Week's Magazine
The broad-based black economic-empowerment (BBBEE) alignment process in the con-struction sector has begun, dur-ing which the sector codes of the Construction Sector Charter Council (CSCC) will be aligned with the revised Codes of Good Practice (CoGP), which come...
It is second time lucky for Toby Venter. Ten years ago he negotiated to buy the Kyalami racetrack, but “the deal did not materialise”.
Environmental solutions company I-Cat started construction work on its R22-million, 1 949 m2 environmentally sustainable office and warehouse facility, commissioned by I-CAT Environmental Solutions, at a launch event in October. The new sustainable I-CAT campus,...
Effective file synchronisation and sharing across an organisation’s structures can provide the basis for robust mobile-device and document management while maintaining proper backup, version control and content distribution. These are the lessons learned by complex...
Hotel group Carlson Rezidor currently holds the largest hotel pipeline in Africa with 30 hotels and 6 300 rooms under development. The hotel group develops and operates Radisson Blu in the upper upscale segment and Park Inn by Radisson in the mid-market segment. With...