The BMW Group’s biomass project is located about 60 km from the Rosslyn Plant in the Gauteng Province, north of the South African capital of Pretoria. Here, the BMW Group operates the first economically viable biogas power plant in Africa. The “producers” of the biogas are roughly 25,000 cows from a neighboring organic cattle farm.
These cows create the raw materials necessary for the biogas fermentation process. Bacteria are then used to produce methane gas, which is converted into energy by four generators. The energy produced covers around 30% of Plant Rosslyn’s energy needs. The use of biomass for energy production has benefits beyond efficient, clean power: it is sustainable, recycles organic waste and helps reduce harmful methane gas emissions.
Originally, the BMW plant in South Africa, which produces just under 300 vehicles a day, was powered by coal-burning power plants, as the property sits atop large lignite coal reserves. At the time, only 2% of energy came from renewable sources. Since the coast is about 600 km away, there is not enough wind power to operate wind turbines. Portions of the production process were powered by hot water from solar energy, but the solar panels were not efficient enough to supply the whole plant. Before the BMW Group could begin outfitting the plant with alternative energy sources, significant research and innovative thinking were needed. It was then that the BMW Group decided to utilise the biomass of neighboring farms. “Here in South Africa, we had to look for new ways to get renewable energy. Gauteng Province is an agricultural stronghold in the region. As a result, a biomass power plant seemed like an obvious alternative, as raw materials like manure and organic waste are always available in large quantities,” said Tim Abbott, CEO of BMW Group South Africa. The plant is on track to be completely carbon neutral by 2020. This is also made possible by new, state-of-the-art solar panels, which produce heat as well as electricity. This heat can be used in the paint shop, for instance.
Plant Rosslyn is one of many BMW Group sustainable energy projects around the world. The 31 production facilities now play an increasingly important role in contributing to the first class ranking of the BMW Group in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). The DJSI is the stock index whose portfolio is made up of companies that operate in sustainable and environmentally friendly ways. In 2016, the BMW Group again ranked at the top of several sustainability indices and received a number of awards. “Not only are our cars low-emission, we want to produce them in a climate-neutral way. Our goal is to increase the share of alternative energy used in production to 100% in the coming years,” said Jury Witsching, Sustainability Manager at the BMW Group. The BMW Group currently meets 51% of its energy needs through renewable sources.
Like Plant Rosslyn, the BMW Plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA, also uses methane gas to power part of the production process. However, the raw materials in Spartanburg come from a local landfill about 16 km away. From there, it is transported via a pipeline into the plant, where it is converted into electricity and heat. 50% of the plant’s energy needs are supplied in this way. In 2016, energy savings totalled $3.5 million per year. Another example is the BMW Plant in Moses Lake (USA): all of the electricity used there comes from the Columbia River’s hydroelectric power stations.
Another link in this sustainability chain is the Tiexi Plant in the Chinese city of Shenyang. BMW engineers were able to reduce the plant’s energy consumption to a record low, despite the fact that temperatures in Shenyang range from +40 °C in the summer to -35 °C in the winter, making efficient energy management quite a challenge. Cooling towers and a water cooling system provide cooling during the warm season. Thermal wheels, a heating facility, and even the excess heat from welding tongs deliver sustainable heat when the outside temperature dips in the winter months. All components of the vehicle body are made on site, so there are no additional CO2 emissions from transportation.
The BMW Plant in Leipzig, Germany, where the all-electric BMW i3 and BMW i8 models are manufactured, is a pioneer in wind power production. In 2013, the BMW Group commissioned four wind turbines with a total output of 10 MW in Leipzig. That’s enough to produce 26,000 MWh of electricity. The wind turbines cover roughly one fifth of Plant Leipzig’s total power demand.
Intelligently implemented innovations – however small – yield an impressive effect. Even a simple change in the PC power settings of BMW Group associates saves around 27,000 MWh of electricity annually.
The BMW Group’s vision is to be the most successful and sustainable premium provider of individual mobility. To achieve this, the company has set ten strategic sustainability goals running through 2020. The goals focus on three areas: “Products and Services,” “Production and Value Creation” and “Employees and Society”.
The BMW Group is reducing CO2 and pollutant emissions in order to protect the climate and air quality. The BMW Group portfolio’s move towards lower-emission, more fuel-efficient vehicles is in line with the wishes of many of our customers. Since 2007, our BMW i project has been developing electric vehicles, and has resulted in completely new concepts for individual mobility.
South Africa is currently experiencing significant pressure on landfill space. Operational landfills are rapidly filling up and new landfill permits are not being issued.
In an attempt to divert waste from landfill, the government has increased landfill gate fees with plans to ban all organic waste to landfill within the next few years. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a potentially effective organic waste treatment method and landfill alternative which several waste producers have begun to utilise or consider.
Treatment of waste in an anaerobic digester both accelerates the decomposition process and produces useful by-products in the form of biogas and digestate. Biogas consists of approximately 50% methane and 50% carbon dioxide and can be upgraded to compressed natural gas, which is used as an LPG replacement or combusted directly in a generator to produce electricity and heat. The digestate produced is nutrient rich and can be used as a liquid fertiliser which returns nutrients to the soil and thereby closes the loop.
Less than 20 large scale AD installations exist in South Africa, of which, far fewer are currently operating as intended. This can be attributed to several factors. AD is a biologically mediated process generally occurring at low temperature and pressure. There are several operational challenges associated with biological systems which require a constant and regulated environment specific to the needs of the microbial community in order to operate optimally. Small deviations can result in huge process upsets and can take much longer to rectify.
As result of the small biogas industry in South Africa, very few companies and people have the experience necessary to operate anaerobic digesters. Additionally, many anaerobic digesters have been installed by international companies with very poor transfer of knowledge and training taking place before project handover. As a result, many companies with new biogas installations find themselves in the position where they are unequipped to operate their new digester and are unable to call on the expertise of others in South Africa. In many cases existing designs have been installed without a full investigation into the appropriateness for the specific waste stream, resulting, in a sub-optimal process.
Afrox is partnering with bio-tech start-up, New Horizons Energy, to turn organic waste destined for landfills into useable products for South African industries.
New Horizons Energy will turn organic waste into useable bio-methane at purity levels of over 90%. Furthermore, the addition of a brand new carbon dioxide (CO2) source to the Afrox portfolio will add significant capacity to Afrox’s national, but more importantly Western Cape, infrastructure.
The New Horizons plant is located in Athlone, near Cape Town, and is expected to start generating bio-gas by mid 2017. Afrox will then distribute the compressed bio-methane to its customer base as an alternative to LPG and/or diesel.
Bio-methane is a proven alternative to existing fuels used primarily for heating application across a multitude of sectors and processes ranging from food production to metal fabrication, as well as for the generation of electricity.
Heinrich Uytenbogaardt, Strategic Marketing Manager, Bulk Markets, commented, “Afrox is currently in discussions with potential customers about the advantages of a local source of bio-gas in the Western Cape, and while compressed natural gas (CNG) is already widely used in many countries around the world, this is still a relatively underdeveloped market in South Africa, and in Cape Town in particular, but one we expect to grow.”
“The upgraded bio-methane from the New Horizons plant in Athlone has a number of advantages over other fuel sources currently available in the Western Cape; it is cleaner burning with far less production of sulphur (S) or nitrogen (N) by-products, and it will have a far more consistent quality which will be especially valuable to processing industries.” Uytenbogaardt continued.
“In addition, the benefits to the environment are worth noting, as the process eliminates the need to send waste to landfill and less harmful greenhouse gases are generated from the use of bio-methane versus other conventional fuels.” He added.
The first large-scale waste-to-energy plant in Africa will be opened in Athlone in Cape Town, on Wednesday, with the aim of converting municipal solid waste into energy.
The state-of-the-art R400-million biogas plant is expected to create 80 full-time jobs and few hundred indirect jobs. The plant is owned by New Horizons Energy, a subsidiary of Clean Energy Africa. An innovative partnership with waste management company Waste Mart has been a boost and the culmination of five years of planning.
Waste Mart will deliver over 500 t/d of organic household, municipal and industrial waste to the plant. This will be converted into renewable, clean energy. New Horizons has set itself a goal of achieving zero waste to landfill, ensuring that all usable waste brought into the plant is developed into environmentally sensitive, high quality products
The day-to-day operations of South Africa’s first commercial biogas plant are being managed by biogas expert Anaergia Africa Proprietary Limited, part of the Anaergia international group of companies, effective 18 July 2016.
Sean Thomas, Bio2Watt’s Managing Director, says that Anaergia’s unparalleled technical capabilities and international experience led to the decision to appoint the company. “Bio2Watt began supplying green energy to BMW’s Rosslyn plant in Pretoria in October last year. Anaergia has built over 300 biogas plants worldwide. We’re thrilled to be able to tap into this expertise, along with the company’s local presence, to help us achieve the highest safety and reliability standards at the Bronkhorstspruit plant,” says Thomas.
Bio2Watt’s Bronkhorstspruit plant is located on the premises of one of South Africa’s larger feedlots (Beefcor) and an agricultural stronghold in Gauteng. The location provides the plant with proximity to key fuel supplies, grid access and sufficient water supplied by Beefcor’s storm water collection dams. The City of Tshwane is also a key supplier of waste to the project.
There are a number of different household size digesters that have been built here in SA, from the common fixed dome brick & mortar design (very low success rate), to pre-fabricated plastic units, all the way to the DIY Biobag Digester Kits supplied by BiogasSA (over 100 successfully installed). However, all of these designs are focussed on rural households that have access to both space and organic waste (primarily animal manure) and comes at a relatively high cost of between R35 000 and R60 000 per unit installed. None of these designs are however suitable for urban households where access to space and organic waste is more challenging. We have designed the EZ-Digester specifically, although not exclusively, for this application in that it is mobile, compact, above ground, requires relatively low amounts of organic waste (primarily food waste) to operate and comes at a cost below R12 000.
An EZ-Digester project in a community will not only provide households with biogas for cooking and lighting, but could facilitate vegetable growing by using the digestate produced by the digester as organic fertilizer. We can supply the EZ-Digester as individual units or deliver a complete turnkey project, where we not only install the digesters and appliances, but also source and secure the waste from supermarkets, provide vegetable growing containers (incl seeds and seedlings), provide training on both biogas and vegetable growing and provide on-site technical support for a period of 2 years (negotiable) to ensure the long term success of the project.
This type of project has multiple and far reaching benefits for communities in terms of job creation (especially for youth and woman), skills transfer (new technology), entrepreneurship opportunities, improved food security at household level, contribution towards carbon mitigation, waste management and development of sustainable, renewable energy generation at household level.
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Contact Mark Tiepelt 0724454739
A consortium led by biogas expert ENER-G Systems is investing £11 million (circa 230 million rand) in five landfill gas generation plants in Johannesburg. This is the largest landfill gas-to-power project to be developed in the country.
ENER-G is the majority shareholder in the project, alongside state-owned Central Energy Fund (SOE) Ltd, and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) company Secure Rock Enterprises. The ENER-G Community Educational Trust will ensure that local communities have a 2.5% economic interest in the five facilities.
The landfill sites are owned by the City Council of Johannesburg, which has been a key partner throughout the project's seven-year development process. It will share in the revenue generated from a 20-year power sale agreement with Eskom, which will sell the power into the distribution network.
The five facilities will produce a total of 13MW of renewable energy, sufficient to power approximately 24,000 homes. In total, the facilities will achieve equivalent carbon dioxide emissions savings of approximately 542,495 metric tonnes per year. This is comparable to the environmental benefit of removing 180,832 cars from the roads, or the carbon dioxide that would be offset by a 444,668 acre forest - almost as big as the footprint of South Africa's Kruger National Park.
This is the first and only landfill gas generation project in South Africa to be successful in the Department of Energy’s Renewable Electricity Independent Power Procurement Program (REIPPP) and it is the first independent power producing project in South Africa.
Development will take three years to roll-out across the five sites, with the first and largest 5MW facility set to begin operation at Robinson Deep in summer 2016. The 3MW Goudkoppies facility is planned to open by late 2016. Plants at Marie Louise and Ennerdale will open in 2017, with the1MW Linbro Park facility scheduled for completion in the middle of 2018.
ENER-G first secured rights to the landfill gas in 2009, then conducted detailed environmental assessments and obtained environmental consents for the five sites. In 2012, the scheme was registered as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change. For the past four years at the Robinson Deep site, ENER-G has implemented flaring to collect and destroy the biogas emissions.
David Cornish, General Manager of ENER-G Systems, said: "In a country that is dominated by coal-based power plants and where there are problems with power resilience, we are proud to work with our local partners to develop much needed renewable power supplies and contribute to greenhouse gas reduction. The five landfill gas generation facilities will also create much needed jobs, while benefiting the local municipality through revenue sharing, and aiding local communities through the ENER-G Community Educational Trust."
He continued: "This complex project has been seven years in development and we are very grateful to the City Council of Johannesburg, whose patience and long-term support has enabled us to overcome some significant hurdles along the way, such as achieving project compliance with the REIPPP programme."
This is one of many landfill gas generation projects by ENER-G globally, which has manufactured, installed and operates in excess of 170 MW of biogas power generation.
Further information: www.energ-group.com
BMW South Africa’s Rosslyn plant now receives renewable energy from a Bio2Watt biogas plant – here is a behind-the-scenes look at the plant.
In this case, the HORSE is a 'living' machine, not an animal, and has the potential to reinvent the food cycle.
We have a huge food waste problem, not only in the US, but all over the globe, and while the issue really needs to be addressed on the upstream side, we also need viable solutions on the downstream, or consumer side, for converting biodegradable waste of all sorts into a usable resource. Composting is one great option, but it does require time, space, and infrastructure to support it, so it can't be a one-size-fits-all solution without a major shift in the way we deal with our waste on a local and regional level.
However, one potential solution may lie in what's called the HORSE, or High-solids Organic-waste Recycling System with Electrical Output, device, currently in development from Impact Bioenergy. This portable anaerobic digestion system can accept a wide variety of organic waste materials, ranging from kitchen scraps and yard waste to paper products, and generate both liquid fertilizer and energy in the form of biogas and electricity.
Assuming one of the devices could be placed in each neighborhood or community (accompanied by a rigorous recycling and overall waste-reduction program), the HORSE system could eventually "eradicate curbside garbage pickup" and avoid the carbon emissions associated with that element of waste management.