Eastern Cape entrepreneurs have teamed up with German technology providers and research institutes to quietly put together plans for a biofuel refinery that will create hundreds of jobs in both rural and urban areas, while putting the province at the forefront of the national government’s plans to grow the “green economy”.
“We can now go public because we have all the major building blocks in place – the feedstock, the technology, the plant, and, most importantly, an off-taker,” says Sylvia Charles marketing director of the Sakhisizwe Trust.
Sakhisizwe Trust has been working on the project for the past four years, and has secured German airline Lufthansa as its first customer.
The feedstock for the bio jet fuel will initially be soybeans grown in the Eastern Cape, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal.
A shipment of eight thousand tons of crude vegetable oil made from beans grown in the area will be shipped soon to Finland to be refined into jet fuel (bio kerosene) to be used in a Lufthansa trial. The world market is demanding huge quantities of bio-fuel and Lufthansa alone is seeking 400 million litres per year of bio-fuel across the world according to a report released by AFP.
Negotiations with Berlin (Eastern Cape)-based Clean Tech Africa have been concluded to produce the test batch, and then to assist in ramping up production. Clean Tech Africa is currently manufacturing biodiesel and has been set up as a renewable energy hub for the Eastern Cape Province.
According to Charles, engineers from the technology supplier Cimbria Sket are already working on a plant capable of producing 100 000 tons of soybean oil a year, followed by a refinery full production is scheduled to start in 2014. “We are in negotiations with farmers’ organisations to speak to their members about producing the beans. All the research shows that soybean production will not impact on food security, but will in fact enhance it,” she says.
“We are looking at ways of including both commercial and small-scale farmers”.
In October, a high-powered German delegation will be visiting the Eastern Cape to inspect the facilities, the two Industrial Development Zones, and the farming area where the beans will be produced.
They include the vice president of Lufthansa, the CEO of technology provider Cimbria Sket, representatives from the German government funded DBFZ research and development agency, and Geotec, which is the project development consultant.
They will be in the province from October 24 to October 27, according to Sylvia Charles.
Their visit will be followed by a Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) team that includes specialists from the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC). The Swiss-based Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuel, and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA).
“The fact that these teams have already diarized visits to the Eastern Cape shows how serious Lufthansa, together with German government institutions, are about seeing a successful biofuel industry established in the Eastern Cape,” she says.
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