Biodiesel In Zambia – What Are The Prospects?

Biodiesel in Zambia?

Well, with the current power shortages, high oil prices, and black-outs, it will be a welcome alternative!


What is biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from renewable resources. It contains no petroleum and is nontoxic and free of sulfur and aromatics.

Actually, the common name for these types of fuels is biofuel. It includes such fuels as ethanol, jatropha, methanol, palm oil and moringa. Another example of biofuel includes alcohol (from fermented sugar).

Biofuels or biodiesels are manufactured from vegetable oils, waste cooking oils, and animal fats.

Locally, we could include solid biofuels such as charcoal (malasha) and firewood (nkuni).

So many definitions have been given for biodiesels such as fuel produced from dry organic matter or combustible oils produced by plants. Another definition says biofuels are renewable liquid fuels made from plant matter rather than fossil fuels.

Today’s primary biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel. Biofuels can help reduce air toxics emissions, greenhouse gas buildup, and dependence on imported oil.

Reasons for alternatives

Biodiesel is good for the environment since it is made from renewable resources and has lower emissions compared to petroleum.

Globally, there is also a reason to consider biofuels now. According to the “Post Lifestyle” dated 17th April 2008, the world has passed what is termed as the “Peak Oil” period. This means that the world has passed the peak of its fossil fuels availability or sustainable extraction and production.

Oil prices have increased sharply during the last years and are expected to rise even further in the near future. Zambia imports all its fuel. This is a heavy burden on the balance of payments and foreign exchange.

Over 70 per cent of the energy consumption in Zambia is derived from biomass, mainly charcoal and fuel wood. This creates serious problems of deforestation.

Some sources of biofuels

Growing Jatropha in Zambia (Jatropha is an excellent bio-fuel crop which has many other advantages over existing crops) could alleviate this problem. Once again the “Post Lifestyle” says to produce 300 million litres of jatropha oil, the country’s estimate annual requirement, would need 180,000 to 220,000 hectares of land at an approximate jatropha seed yield of about 7.0 tones/ha.

Zambia has over 13 million hectares available arable land currently unutilized; clearly then land availability or the perceived threat to food security is not a limitation on jatropha.

Another advantage is versatility. Jatropha can be used for energy uses such as transport, electricity generation, direct lighting and cooking.

Some other sources of fuel

Other renewable energy technologies that can be utilized are wind and solar energy. Wind energy is cheaper to produce than solar energy. All you need is a tower and a generator.

What is the future for biodiesel in Zambia?

Despite the advantages of renewable Energy sources, the Zambian government limits the emergence of a jatropha-based energy system. The government must show a shift from the prevailing energy sector and the current transport regime which is entirely based on imported fossil fuels.

So, what is the future of biodiesel in Zambia?

A step has been taken in the right direction. The government has adopted a new energy policy which promotes the use of sustainable energy forms.

Indeed, the question, "Biodiesel in Zambia?" posed at the beginning of this article may not be a far cry in the near future. This leads us to…

CEC enters contract to buy 200,000 litres of Kapiri Jatropha

Towards the end of January 2011, CEC Plc contracted to purchase 200,000 litres of crude jatropha from peasant farmers in Kapiri Mponshi. This move was taken to reduce its heavy reliance on imported petroleum products.

The CEC Company had established a pilot plant for processing jatropha oil into bio-diesel, initially to feed part of its own fuel requirements.

CEC is the sole supplier of power to Copperbelt-based mining firms. When market conditions allow, it would expand into a commercial operation of the bio-fuel unit.

A memorandum of understanding for the development of small-scale farmers and processors of jatropha within the Central Province was signed between the CEC, Zambian branch of Netherlands international development, SNV, and Kapiri Mponshi Growers Association.

Other parties to the agreement were NANOFA enterprises and Kapiri Bio Products (KBP).

CEC promised to make available for sale to NANOFA and KBP for use in their soap-making operations, the glycerol to be produced from the refinery process.

Meanwhile, Biofuels Association of Zambia (BAZ) chairperson, Professor Thomson Sinkala said, the country was lagging behind in terms of developing the biofuel industry because of lack of investment, incentives and a local market for the sector.

“What we are waiting for is the announcement of mix ratios, because these define the market which the industry can target. If the government declared the volume of business, companies like Zambia Sugar and Kalungwishi Estate can use molasses, which is a by-product of sugar, to produce biofuel. There is a lot of potential in this sector. We have Zambeef and even the small scale growers of jatropha.”- Professor T. Sinkala, BAZ Chairperson, 3rd February 2011.
He said the biofuels would enable the country to be self sufficient in all basic energy forms.

Yes, we really need Biodiesel in Zambia!


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