African nations develop biodiesel production

By Susanne Retka Schill | September 18, 2009
The African nations of Rwanda and Mozambique are moving forward with plans to boost biodiesel production. Landlocked Rwanda considers biofuel production from locally grown feedstocks an important part of national security. "Our main plan is to use biodiesel so that we can produce our own energy that is environmentally friendly," Jean Baptiste Nduwayezu, director general of the Rwanda's Institute of Scientific and Technological Research, told Biodiesel Magazine.

Since 2007, the institute has experimented with a number of feedstocks including palm, jatropha, moringa, castor and soy oils, in a 2,000 liter per day (approximately 160,000 gallons per year) pilot facility at Kigali, Rwanda's capital city. With the successful completion of that research, the government of Rwanda has announced plans to build a 300,000 liter per day (25 MMgy) facility in a public-private partnership. The ISTR suggests several possibilities for biodiesel feedstocks in Rwanda. New varieties of oil palm developed for high-altitude and low-temperature production offer high-yield potential for cultivation in Rwanda. Jatropha is also being planted in several regions where the land is more suited to the drought resistant plant. The ISTR is also exploring intermediate crops to use as feedstocks while the oil-bearing trees mature, including castor bean and avocado. While avocado is widely cultivated in Rwanda, the oil-bearing seeds are not currently utilized.

The country is also considering the use of Moringa oleifera oilseeds as an additional biodiesel feedstock. Moringa has recently been introduced in several rural districts for use as a nutritional supplement due to its high levels of beta carotene, vitamins A and C, protein, iron, calcium and potassium contained in the leaves. In addition, the seed pod is used for water purification. The ISTR has included moringa in plots to study its potential as an oilseed, along with its oil palm and jatropha trials.

Along the southeast coast of the African continent, Mozambique is also developing a biofuels industry with the hope of contributing 15 percent of the national fuel consumption in the next five years. In the Ecomoz Project, the Mozambique state-owned fuel company, Petromoc, and several other partners have produced about 1 million liters (approximately 260,000 gallons) of biodiesel, primarily from coconut oil, at a pilot facility near Maputo, Mozambique. This summer the Galpbuzi consortium, consisting of the Mozambican Buzi Co. and the Portuguese Galpenergia, announced its intention to develop sunflower and jatropha production for a planned biodiesel refinery, using feedstock from its own plantings and area farmers. "If we manage to get enough seeds to justify the installation of the refinery, both for export and for the domestic consumption, Galpbuze will go ahead with project," said Goncalo Barradas, the general director.
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