Gerhard Rheeder
2 minute read
23 Oct 2018
10:06 am

Middelburg to start construction on R1.1bn gas-to-fuel green energy plant

Gerhard Rheeder

The plant will be built next year, anchoring the town as South Africa’s flagship commercial ethanol production region.


The plant, which will be built at Samancor ferrochrome smelter, will create 300 temporary jobs during construction, with an estimated 35 permanent jobs filled after completion.

The ethanol plant will produce close to 60 million litres of ethanol per annum, estimated to produce enough fuel to eliminate the carbon footprint of around 250,000 cars on South African roads each year, reports Middelburg Observer.

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The US Trade and Development Agency issued a grant to the Pretoria-based Swayana energy project developer for a feasibility study that will use innovative U.S. technologies to convert waste gas, known as off-gas, into ethanol, which will be sold into the green fuels market both locally and abroad.

A pilot fermentation unit was shipped to South Africa and successful fermentation tests have already been conducted.

The project, now in the engineering phase, will use proprietary technologies from Illinois based LanzaTech, to create ethanol from off-gas generated as a byproduct of ferroalloy smelting.

According to Swayana, the country has many miners beneficiation plants producing carbon-rich off-gasses but needs the technology to turn them into green fuel.

Former Middelburg Chemical Engineer and Swayana Director Ola Paton confirmed during a business breakfast hosted by Mayor Bagudi Tolo that construction of the plant will commence in 2019, and that the full-scale production would be ramped up to as early as 2020.

The project will be funded by various shareholders, including the US Trade and Development Agency, private operating partners, and SA’s Industrial Development Corporation. The project is centred around the use of technologically advanced microbial fermentation of the carbon monoxide-rich off-gases generated by two Samancor ferrochrome smelters.

The water supply for the bio-reaction process will be sourced from the municipality and wastewater will be treated by Samancor.

The ethanol plant will be developed in a decommissioned building at Samancor near to the existing stacks and off-gas supply. The infrastructure will cover a maximum area of two hectares within the boundary of Samancor.

With larger production volumes anticipated, the ethanol will also be used as feedstock to the chemical industry, specifically for ethylene and polyethylene production.

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