The beneficiation of biodiesel by-products, and possible economic spin-offs for rural agricultural communities will receive a boost with South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) providing financial support to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct research in this area.
A DST-driven committee on biodiesel had identified the need to ensure that the contribution of by-products to the economic viability of bio-diesel is maintained and improved. The committee then tasked the CSIR, in collaboration with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), to prepare a research plan and proposal on value addition to the by-products of biodiesel production. This links well with related investigations by researchers from the CSIR and the ARC.
The main objective of the research is to improve the nutritional value of oil cake, a biodiesel by-product, thereby increasing its inclusion levels in animal feed, specifically pig and poultry diets and fish food. Animal feed trials and related research will be done in collaboration with the ARC. Research will also be conducted into its possible future use beyond animal feed. Another objective is to increase the economic viability of biodiesel and create manufacturing industries in semi-urban and rural areas.
Research on value addition to the soybean oilcake will require investigations into other areas, such as the de-hulling process, the type of oil production, variability in raw materials, and selection and type of oilseed,” explains Dr Gatsha Mazithulela, Executive Director of CSIR Biosiences. During the research project, soybeans and sunflower seeds will be the two main crops used for biodiesel production. Information on these two readily-available crops is extensive and the use of the oilcake by-products is established in the animal-feed market. “The project will draw on the expertise of food scientists, fermentations specialists, process chemists and biotechnologists of the CSIR,” comments Mazithulela.
The project has been established against the background of the White Paper on Energy Policy with regard to the supply and consumption of energy in South Africa for the next decade. The policy recognises that South Africa has not paid enough attention to the development and implementation of renewable energy applications. Government policy on renewable energy is concerned with meeting challenges around economically feasible technologies and applications, the level of national resources invested in renewable technologies and addressing constraints on the development of the renewable energy industry.
Renewable energy technologies are expensive due to high capital costs, compared to conventional energy supplies for bulk energy supply to urban areas or major industries. Implementation of these technologies therefore requires significant initial investment and may need support for long periods before reaching profitability.
The potential of biofuels to contribute to rural development is recognised in the Integrated Rural Development Strategy that aims to ensure that rural areas attain the internal capacity for integrated and sustainable development by 2010. The energy sector can provide an opportunity to create an economic base via agricultural and home-based industries and SMMEs in order to grow the income-generating potential of communities. This can include biodiesel processing or industries created to add value to the process by-products.