Market research company and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan has awarded its 2016 Company of the Year Award to South African renewable-energy company Biogreen for its innovative performance and customer impact in the production of biodiesel from used cooking oil.
Biogreen offers its suppliers and customers set contracts, which are independent of oil prices, therefore, providing reliable service. For some of its customers, it also supplies new oil and collects used oil from customer premises.
The company works with well-known companies such as retailers Woolworths Food, Pick n Pay, Burger King and Boxer Stores. Brand owners derive value and strengthen their corporate image by using sustainable fuels in their operations, with brand and retail owners noticing a positive consumer reaction.
Frost & Sullivan explains that, using biodiesel reduces the demand for fossil- based fuels, in turn, increasing energy security and decreasing energy consumption and net carbon emissions.
There are currently an estimated 28-million tons of waste cooking oil generated yearly in South Africa and only three-million tons to five-million tons is being collected for reuse. The rest of the waste cooking oil goes to waste disposal or is resold as a cheaper alternative to fresh oil to poor communities.
Biogreen produces between 20 000 ℓ and 25 000 ℓ a year and, with new operations opening in Johannesburg and Durban, the company’s combined output will be over 30 000 ℓ. Frost & Sullivan highlights that, although margins tend to be thin in the recycling business, Biogreen has managed to show strong growth and is expected to show even stronger growth when its planned franchises come on line.
This will see the number of employees increase from 30 to about 150 people. The biggest hurdle to Biogreen’s growth is the fact that government legislation requires companies that produce over 25 000 ℓ to pay an array of taxes, which include a contribution to the Road Accident Fund and the Fuel Levy. This will have an adverse impact on the already thin margins that recycled materials generate.
Biofuels can be made from virgin vegetable, however, the use of agricultural oils, seeds and carbohydrates such as soya, sunflower, canola and maize threatens food security in African countries where hunger is still a major issue. Nonfood crops such as jatropha, moringa, cassava and castor are also viable options; however, these are all long-term solutions, which require large-scale investments. An immediate solution, therefore, is making biodiesel using waste cooking oil.
Further, when used cooking oil is recycled to produce biodiesel, billions of litres of waste grease can be diverted from landfills and municipal water pipes, improving the quality of both air and water.
“Since entering the South African market, Biogreen has remained at the forefront of development,” notes Frost & Sullivan. Under a licence agreement, the company uses locally developed and patented Jet Reactor Technology to make SANS 1935 specification biodiesel.
Moreover, while the standard transesterification process is carried out at 60 °C, the technology used by Biogreen allows it to run its processes at 45 °C resulting in energy savings.
The process also uses 16% less methanol which is less than what other reactors use, making the process more environment friendly. Furthermore, biodiesel produce has a higher quality than diesel and requires less time for the conversion.
Expanded Biofuel Drive
In 2007, the South African government published a biofuels industrial strategy aimed at reducing poverty through the promotion of a circular economy.
This strategy remains of great importance as biofuels are key in providing energy security for the country since they are a renewable resource that is readily available.
Were a comprehensive biofuel industry to be founded, Biogreen notes that biofuels would reduce the country’s carbon footprint as carbon dioxide (CO2) released from biodiesel combustion is, furthermore, offset by the CO2 absorbed while growing the various feedstocks.
At present, the use of 100% biodiesel reduces CO2 emissions by more than 75%, compared with petroleum-based diesel, while using a 20% blend reduces CO2 emissions by as much as 15%.
Depending on oil prices, biodiesel tends to cost more than petroleum diesel, however, the
price gap is continuously narrowing.
The price falls considerably when waste cooking oil is used, as 75% of the price of biodiesel comes from the oil feedstock. If waste cooking oil is used, biodiesel’s economic advantage can be moved to the price of the fuel at the pump.
Biodiesel can go into any vehicle with no conversion and it costs roughly R10.50/ℓ, which is lower than the current pump price of about R11.30/ℓ. Biogreen acknowledges the motor vehicle manufacturers’ recommended blend in vehicles ranging from 5% to 100% in more industrial motors.
In order to use biodiesel, no modifications are necessary for vehicles that were
manufactured after 1990. Additionally, no phasing-in is required for new vehicles, but
vehicles that have used petroleum-derived diesel are likely to have sludge and sediment
that will gradually be cleared away by the biodiesel.
“Biogreen’s brand is ubiquitous across the biodiesel industry; this, combined with provision
of quality biofuels and reliability, has allowed Biogreen to gain traction in a challenging
industry and it is distinguishing itself as the foremost producer of biodiesel from used cooking oil,” concludes Frost & Sullivan.