Bio-Energy Resources Limited’s (Berl) says its $2 million (about K700 million) factory is on track and the firm will start selling jatropha straight vegetable oil, the company’s public relations and sustainability manager, Abbi Chittock has said.
In December last year, Berl indicated that it would start selling the oil in the first quarter of 2013, with a relatively smaller commercial production being the company’s first year of production.
In total, Berl will be producing between 60 000 and 70 000 litres of jatropha straight vegetable oil which will be blended at nine percent with diesel and 20 percent with paraffin (using the same principles as the ethanol industry).
In an e-mail response on Monday, Chittock indicated that Berl may start selling the oil in the next two months as they still have to finalise everything with development organistaions.
“We are still working on finalising items with Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) and Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) on issues of standards and pricing respectively,” she said.
She earlier indicated that Berl would be selling the oil to captive fleet owners and trucking companies as the production volumes will be small this year, adding that as the volume increases, then they will sell more widely.
According to her, the production facility is designed to run 24 hours a day. During this period, they can process 18 tonnes of seed (feedstock) which produces approximately 5 000 litres of jatropha straight vegetable oil.
Chittock acknowledged that, at the moment, there is not enough jatropha feedstock for the industry to have a large impact on the fuel demand, but believes the potential is huge.
“Berl is directly addressing the issue of feedstock supply by working with over 25 000 smallholder farmers to plant and maintain jatropha trees. All of Berl’s smallholder farmers plant jatropha as a boundary hedge – so there is no conflict between food and fuel.
As a company, we guarantee to buy the nuts from these trees. Berl is expanding the number of farmers each year – we aim to have over 100 000 farmers in our system. This is how we plan to increase the feedstock available for our processing facility,” said Chittock.
Jatropha is a tree that survives for 30 – 50 years depending on the level of management. It produces nuts on an annual basis between November and May each year.
Malawi stands to save millions of kwacha with the adoption of jatropha as well as ethanol as alternatives to fossil fuels. A report on Ethanol Driven Vehicle Project that was released before the devaluation of the kwacha indicated that Malawi would save approximately K13.5 billion (about $39.7 million) by 2015, assuming that 33 percent of total petrol vehicle fuel requirement is met by ethanol fuel.