Polio-free Northern White Rhino biorefinery science scientist
Photo Cred: On File | Supplied

A Biorefinery is a great step away from using traditional fossil fuels. The change can benefit the environment in so many ways.


Finding alternative fuel options is one of the most important things we can do to help the environment. The burning of fossil fuels is not only expensive, it has detrimental effects on the environment.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, launched the Biorefinery Industry Development Facility (BIDF) at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) campus in Durban on the 20th March 2018.

A Biorefinery uses biomass to produce energy instead of using fossil fuels to produce energy. A biorefinery can produce fuels, power, heat, and value-added chemicals from biomass. 

It can also produce biodiesel or bioethanol, generate electricity and process heat. If the facility can generate enough energy, it can sell the electricity to the local municipalities. The power production helps to lower energy costs and has reduced greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional power plant facilities.

Biorefineries will play a major role in producing chemicals and materials that are traditionally produced from petroleum.

BIDF will focus on the forestry industry as a massive resource of biomass. Biomass refers to plants or plant-based materials that are not used for food or feed. The processing of these elements will mean that 90% of a tree is used instead of the standard 30% and waste chicken feathers can be used to obtain keratin. The potential is endless.

Biorefinery in South Africa’s pulp and paper industry is practised on a very limited scale. Wood, pulp and paper waste ends up in landfill sites or is burnt, stockpiled or even pumped out to sea. The potential to extract value from it is not realised, which means lost opportunities for the country’s economy.

Additionally, the country is running out of landfill space. High-value speciality chemicals can be extracted from sawmill and dust shavings, while mill sludge can be converted into nanocrystalline cellulose, biopolymers and biogas.

By taking these resources, South Africa not only has access to another fuel option but landfills and the oceans will benefit. The use of biorefining results in little to no waste. This is an exciting time in the country as we see if this new method of energy production will have long-term benefits for the environment, economy and employment rates.

What are your thoughts on this? Obviously, this isn’t the end of fossil fuels but it is a step towards the future and that is just what we want to see.

Sources: Supplied
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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