The recent Biogas Report, conducted by the Department of Environmental Affairs and its partners, examines the potential biogas has as a source of transport based on the relevant waste sources in the country. From these findings the total biogas potential from sources, captured within South Africa’s biogas inventory, is around three million normal cubic meters (Nm3) per day. The interesting part is that with the majority share of 38% of the total volume, the municipal solid waste (MSW) sector is the largest contributor to the country’s biogas potential.
Professor Suzan Oelofse, president of the IWMSA, explains that this information serves as a clear indicator that South Africa has the potential to successfully incorporate Waste-to-Energy (WtE) initiatives, however she cautions that WtE should not be the primary driver for implementing alternative waste management options. Waste is a resource and therefore the economic benefit that can be derived from waste should be maximised.
She highlights that to implement successful biogas WtE programmes relies on effective MSW characterisation. The characterisation of waste allows us to evaluate the country’s MSW and highlight important indicators such as: appropriate technologies that address discrete segments of the waste streams; accurate decision support regarding the best management option for different materials or waste streams; material flow modeling and facility size; and potential recycling and composting costs.
“Biogas WtE extraction technologies are often waste stream specific as each stream has different energy potential depending on its composition,” says Oelofse. “Decisions on which technology will fit best to each waste stream needs be based on sound evidence.”