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Western Cape looking into how biomass could be used for energy security, aviation fuel

A municipal worker cleans the Mocke river in Diep River of alien vegetation. Picture Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.

A municipal worker cleans the Mocke river in Diep River of alien vegetation. Picture Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.

Published Aug 5, 2021

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Cape Town - To find out how biomass could be used as an opportunity for energy security and aviation fuel in the province, the Provincial Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning was recently briefed on a Biomass Programme and Aviation Fuel Study.

This was presented by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning’s (DEA and DP) and CapeNature in a briefing on Tuesday.

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Western Cape Sustainability Director Ronald Mukanya delivered the presentation on opportunities for energy security and aviation fuel, DEA and DP Biodiversity Management Head Albert Ackhurst delivered the department’s presentation on their Biomass Programme and CapeNature scientific manager Dr Andrew Turner delivered the presentation on the ecological impacts of eucalyptus invasions in the province.

Mukanya shared insights on the Aviation Fuel Study’s objective to prove the pre-feasibility of a waste-based sustainable value chain for the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by the National Petroleum, Gas and Oil Corporation of SA (PetroSA).

The need for alternative sources of aviation fuel was realised when PetroSA’s primary operating asset, the GtK Refinery in Mossel Bay experienced severe restrictions due to a lack of affordable feedstock, especially natural gas which resulted in the department’s involvement to find alternative feedstock options in the form of various wastes that could be converted to sustainable advanced fuels.

Mukanya said the study was done under the assumption that invasive alien plants (IAPs) were recognised as a substantial candidate resource for the production of advanced fuel in South Africa as its usage would meet multiple ecological and social objectives.

“However, it is important to note that alien plant biomass was a strictly non-renewable resource and the biomass stock will need to be apportioned for harvesting over the project lifetime,” said Mukanya.

Ackhurst said the department’s Biomass Program provided an opportunity for biomass value chains to be developed from energy products (such as heat, power and wood chips) and material products (such as timber, fibre cement, mulch and game feed).

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Ackhurst said the department was taking a leading role in many aspects relating to biomass, particularly alien invasive species biomass, and waste beneficiation within the province.

“We are currently collaborating with the provincial Economic Development Partnership and the Garden Route District Municipality to host the Waste and Biomass Beneficiation Conference in just two weeks time (August 12).

“Going forward, the Biomass Programme looks to collaborate with partners, focus on district approach and replication success, innovative funding models and co-funding opportunities, mobilize stakeholders through awareness and knowledge sharing, continue business cases and implementation models, and monitor progress,” said Ackhurst.

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