The harsh reality is that there are countless South Africans in poorer communities that have no access to electricity. Combined with the current national power crisis and the long time it takes to build infrastructure alternative fuel sources needed to be explored.
Organic waste can be used to produce fuel through thermochemical, biochemical and physicochemical reactions. Biomass sources include agricultural resides and animal waste – including cow manure.
The beauty of Biogas is that it is a renewable energy source that generates carbon neutral electricity. It is in fact so energy efficient that biogas meets 30% of BMW South Africa’s electricity needs.
What Can Be Used To Produce Biogas?
Any organic matter can be used to produce biogas. What is interesting is that the methane produced is no different from that produced in natural deposits. Although many people may be put off by the raw materials, biogas can be used in a number of applications and is an eco-friendly alternative to diminishing fossil fuel reserves.
Some examples of materials that make up biomass fuels are:
- Plant matter, especially agricultural waste
- Manure, especially manure from herbivores
- Some types of waste residues produced from forestry
Leading Biogas Producers in South Africa
In South Africa, where solar energy and wind power are plentiful, it seems that biogas is a perfect addition to further renewable energy production.
Sean Thomas is an entrepreneur and the founder of Bio 2 Watt, which has been in operation since 2007. He is a trained engineer that firmly believes that creating sustainable biomass chains is a prerequisite for successful business management.
Thomas manages a biogas production facility east of Pretoria. With a head of over 25 000 cattle, the facility is currently producing over 40 000 tons of manure. That’s an enormous amount of poo!
To put things in perspective, one cow can produce enough manure in one day to generate 3 kilowatt hours of electricity. That may not seem like a lot, but take into consideration that it only takes a nominal 2,4 kilowatt hours of electricity to power a single 100-watt light globe for a day.
Manure goes through a process of fermentation when digested. The bi-product of this chemical process is methane. This methane gas is harvested to produce biogas.
What makes biogas such an environmentally friendly form of energy is the fact that bacteria are used to break down food and animal waste through a natural process. The methane can then be used to power internal combustion engines, which is used to drive generators, which produce electricity.
The biogas factory east of Pretoria is now producing more that 40 000 tons of manure. This is an enormous amount of poo!