Thursday, April 18, 2024

Botswana Oil provides hope for Lobatse bio-fuel company

Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) is expected to facilitate meaningful citizen participation in the petroleum sector, President Ian Khama said at the official launch of the new company on Tuesday.

“The company will work with citizen emerging companies (CECs) to facilitate their participation in the oil industry. It has been difficult for citizen emerging companies to make a significant contribution in the petroleum sector. We see Botswana Oil Limited as a company that will provide support to the CECs, a catalyst that will provide opportunities for them so as to ensure that Botswana achieves security of fuel supply,” Khama said.

One of those companies is Biodiesel Botswana which operates the first and only facility of its kind in the entire country.

The company is based in Lobatse, having relocated from Ramotswa station (Taung) where it had been operating for the past eight years.

Its managing director, Boiki Mabowe, says that this relocation was necessitated by need to be closer to animal fat from the Botswana Meat Commission. In Taung, the company used recycled cooking oil from Gaborone restaurants.

This project is trailblazing enough to have attracted the attention of the Finnish government which advised Biodiesel Botswana to diversify and expand feedstock, improve process efficiency, increase process production capacity, and reduce raw material losses. Using animal fat was one aspect of diversification.

Mabowe said that the Taung plant was not efficient and that when it opens, the new plant would eliminate all such challenges and also produce a better quality biodiesel. The company is currently undertaking an Environmental Impact Assessment study that should end in either late November or December whereupon Mabowe expects an operating licence to be issued.

For the government to realise its citizen economic empowerment goals in this sector, Mabowe said that it would be necessary to do two things. Firstly, it should develop an energy policy.

“The private sector needs to know what its role should be. It needs to know what the government’s targets are and when it wants to have reached such targets. The government should also make the environment conducive for the development of biofuels so that if say, it wants 50 million litres of bio-fuel a year, the private sector should be able to deliver,” he said.
Sunday Standard has learned that such policy is being developed.

The second thing Mabowe wants the government to do is mandate biofuel blending in the manner South Africa has.

Beginning October 1 next year, South African fuel producers will be required by law to blend petrol and diesel with biofuels as the country moves to encourage investment in its biofuels sector and reduce its reliance on imported fuel.

“When that happens, are we in Botswana going to use blended fuels from South Africa or are we going to develop our own? If we are going to blend, then there will be need to develop our own blending facilities. Botswana Oil could do such blending on its own or work with companies such as Biodiesel Botswana,” Mabowe said.

According to a report from the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Technology of the University of Botswana, Biodiesel Botswana operates in line with international standards.

Its fuel “compares favourably well with petroleum-based diesel fuel used in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.”

Mabowe, who is a bio-energy specialist, previously worked in the Department of Energy Affairs in the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources.

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