Oct 05, 2012
Potential biofuels market could kick-start bioenergy industryBack
© Reuse this
“Biogas produced from anaerobic digesters using sewage, manure or other readily degradable organic residue is used on a small scale on farms or village-like settlements as an energy source, but it hasn’t really taken off.
“Several companies and start-ups had considered burning biomass for electricity generation purposes; however, on its own this is not a very sensible practice,” he states.
Van Zyl suggests that using a combination of excess plant residues and residue streams from biobased industries, such as sugar and paper and biofuels plants can be more effectively used for the cogeneration of electricity than simply burning biomass.
He notes that this makes more economical sense, as organic materials, such as plant residue, have a higher value when converted into biofuels or other commodity products, thus replacing fuels at about ten times the monetary value than the conversion from coal to electricity.
In addition to creating a biofuels market, it is important that South Africa’s fuel standards be upgraded in the near future as this creates incentives for the blending of biofuels with petrol and diesel during production to meet fuel standards.
Further, Van Zyl recommends that less intervention from government in terms of who may produce biofuels and from which feedstocks, the simplification of the licensing of biofuels production and the encouragement of more start-ups in this new field, might help expedite the development of bioenergy and biofuels in South Africa.
He hopes this will have a spillover effect into neighbouring countries, some of which have greater potential for biofuel feedstock production.
Van Zyl reiterates that bioenergy will not, in the long run, be a viable option for grid electricity generation, as it does not make sense to compete with coal by using valuable biomass.
“Why use highly evolved molecules that are produced by nature as part of plant structures and simply burn them through combustion to generate electricity with a low value?
“I would rather promote the use of biomass as a replacement for fossil fuel in the future, thereby developing a new green chemistry industry and economy and replacing crude oil as the basis for the production of liquid fuels and other higher-value chemicals,” he comments.
Further, he says bioenergy production can be integrated into agriculture and forestry if it is approached in a sustainable way and best practices are followed. He says this can be synergised with food production and actually guarantee food security.
An integrated approach, where bioenergy is produced from nonfood residue and crops, creating alternative markets for farmers, is integral to food security.
Bioenergy could also create jobs through the expansion of the agricultural and forestry sectors.
However, Van Zyl notes that one of the shortfalls of bioenergy is its complexity.
“It is not a simple standalone technology, such as wind turbines and solar energy units. Because of the complexity of bioenergy and its integration into agriculture and forestry, coupled with fears around food security, people are hesitant to get involved and politicians prefer rather to play it safe and conservative in this debate,” he says.
He also reveals that South Africa does not have a skills pool large enough to implement bioenergy to its fullest, using advanced technologies.
To deal with this problem, Stellenbosch University runs programmes through the senior chair of energy research: biofuels, which offers postgraduate training towards Masters and Doctoral degrees in advanced biofuels or bioenergy technologies.
Another postgraduate programme in renewable and sustainable energy studies includes postgraduate courses in different renewable energy areas, including bioenergy.
The programme is run by the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy studies, under the leadership of Professor Wicus van Niekerk.
Stellenbosch University also focuses on new and advanced second-generation technologies for the conversion of nonfood residues and crops for bioenergy production.
Van Zyl says these technologies should allow for the integration of bioenergy production into existing biobased industries, such as the pulp and paper, as well as sugar industries.
In turn, this will ensure the complete use of plant material and the development of products and energies from these materials.
Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn© Reuse this Comment Guidelines
Other Biofuels News
Creamer Media’s 2013 Liquid Fuels electronic research report examines South Africa’s liquid fuels market, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry,...
Article contains comments
Updated 6 hours ago Western Europe remained the most popular geography for infrastructure investors, followed closely by North America and Australasia, while investor interest in markets such as India and China has dropped, a recent study by advisory firm Deloitte has found. Deloitte...
Updated 7 hours ago International freight volumes are expected to grow by 17% over the next five years, indicating a conservative recovery in global economic activity and world trade volumes, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) Airline Industry Forecast 2013-2017 revealed...
Updated 7 hours ago JSE-listed Hudaco Industries on Thursday announced that it had acquired the assets and liabilities of imported battery distributor Specialised Battery Systems (SBS). The final total consideration payable by Hudaco would depend on the company’s average profits over...
Recent Research Reports
Defence 2013: A review of South Africa's defence industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Defence Report examines South Africa’s defence industry, with particular focus on the key players in the sector, the innovations that have come out of the defence sector, local and export demand, South Africa’s controversial...
Road and Rail 2013: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2013 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...
Liquid Fuels 2013 (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s 2013 Liquid Fuels report examines South Africa’s liquid fuels market, focusing on the business environment, oil and gas exploration, the country’s feedstock supplies, the development of South Africa’s biofuels industry, fuel pricing,...
Projects in Progress - Second Edition (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s second Projects in Progress supplement considers some of the major project developments under way, including high-profile energy and transport projects, as well as a few of the lower-profile public and private developments. What remains apparent is...
Water 2013: A review of South Africa’s water sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Water 2013 report considers the aforementioned issues, not only in the South African context, but also in the African and global context, and examines the issues of water and sanitation, water quality and the demand for water, among others.
Canadian Mining Roundup for June 2013 (PDF Report)
The June 2013 roundup includes details of the development of TSX-V-listed Aldridge Minerals’ flagship Yenipazar polymetallic project, in Turkey; the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s renewal of Cameco’s uranium mining licence pertaining to the Cigar Lake...
This Week's Magazine
Mitsubishi Motors South Africa (MMSA) has introduced a 4x2 derivative of its Pajero Sport sports-utility vehicle (SUV), which will give it access to a substantial slice of the full-size SUV market, where it will compete with the likes of the Ford Everest, Chevrolet...
South African Energy Minister Ben Martins has affirmed that the government wants the country to be globally competitive in the nuclear sector. "Our responsibility has always been ... to ensure that, in nuclear energy, South Africa can compete with the rest of the...
Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) president and CEO Dr Martin Zimmermann describes the new S-Class as “a special place to be”, with the car creating a sense of “wellness” once you are seated inside the German brand’s flagship model. It is difficult to argue...
Water scarcity and water-quality issues are broadly recognised and understood in most political, business and civil organisations in South Africa, but solving water issues will require wide and continuous action in catchments and municipalities by organisations and...
Work is well under way on the R212-million Imvutshane dam, 30 km north-west of Stanger, in KwaZulu-Natal, which is a key link in supplying people in rural Maphumulo with a reliable source of safe drinking water.
Next ArticleCompany provides training, equipment