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At 7:29pm on November 29, 2009, Otto Formo said…
Hi, Clive, sorry for not giving you any feedback uptil now.
Biodiesel is a "hot potatoe" in Norway these days and there was nearly a political "crises" in the Parlament last week because of adding tax on biofuel from our Government.
I very much agree that something has to be done with the fuel"crises" in Africa, but we like to start with household energy in a small scale and do some pilot projects to find the "right" way forward.
How far have you come so far?
GreenRescourses Ltd is also doing some projects on biofuel and biomass in TZ.
Have you been discuessing your project with them?
We, Miombo, could be very much interested to be involved, espescialy on the biomass energy program based on householdenergy.
Otto Formo
At 6:47pm on September 4, 2009, CLIVE RICHARDSON said…
Biomass Conversions to Liquid Fuels via BTL Processes. Looking very promising.
At 5:05pm on September 4, 2009, Sipha Ndawonde said…
Hi Clive, this sounds interesting. Allow me a couple of days to assess the model in more detail.

At 8:03am on August 31, 2009, Philip Ashby said…
Well Chala is beautiful and has been crying out for some investment for a very long time. It could become a great weekend getaway from Nrb and Aru and we have nowhere good to go fishing or boating nearby.

We are on the Arusha Park boundary and so above the coffee although there was some around, but it has almost all gone from up here now. Ripped out when the prices where too low a couple of years ago.
At 10:05pm on August 30, 2009, Torsten Mandal said…
Calliandra may not be the best tree legume for the semi arid areas but for much of the sub-humid tropics and humid tropic. The whole value chain is important, but often the whole thing is not in place at the same time, or no step is taken to start with. It is important people can try a new crop at a small scale with out risking loosing much land, money, or seeds. Direct seeding gives longer lasting and more drought tolerant Jatropha than cuttings. Good agro-industry in Africa often combines intensive and extensively grown areas, and seek lowest possible costs with moderate or high out-put. Price fluctuatioons should not be fatal. Low-cost, pro-poor technologies can be knowledge intensive and require good research to be efficient. See e.g. my articles on how low cost and high output can be combined for young tree legumes at least. If many peasants do not benefit without being highly dependent or risking much, then many will be against taking land out of food production for fuel.
PS I do not understand why you often write about sub tropics, when you mention tropical countries (sub humid and semiarid areas).
At 6:26pm on August 30, 2009, Torsten Mandal said…
Do you think you could be interested in applied research collaboration with me on the issues I mentioned. From what I have read about Jatropha seeds and direct seeding I think I can improve their germination sufficiently to make direct seeding work well.
I also have suggestions for a very cheap new type of oil extractor for farmers trying and starting at a scale too small yet for a conventional one. A Kenyan sunflower oil specialist was very interested in my idea, which have not been tried.
At 4:48pm on August 30, 2009, Torsten Mandal said…
Need for new approaches to Jatropha cultivation Thank you for your good comment on my wall. I agree one should use experience from e.g. tea and coffee organizations, but not in copying their present approach. I recently advised a consultant to a Tanzanian tea production centre, and I think all agreed that agronomic innovations and a farming system approach should be used more. Collaboration with centres of Excellency is important too, and I was a research associate of ICRAF for two years and learned much. However, they and others, have done very little else directly on new practical solutions to reducing tree establishment costs in the tropics or improving management options for hedges. These issues are essential for the poor to benefit, and for erosion to be reduced rather than increased. Cultivation, particularly of tall plants like cassava and probably Jatropha on degraded land, increases erosion if the soil surface is not covered near it, at least in many contour belt. The energy per square metre of the bigger rain drops joint on the leaves increases. However, adding value permanently covered contour strips is important. Integration with long duration legumes appears promising if they are easy to establish and handle.
At 10:40am on August 26, 2009, Philip Ashby said…
There always are houses for sale as the area is booming. We need to sell our cottage so that we can build a bigger house as we have outgrown it. We had a little surprise love child a couple of years ago! So we now have three kids. We live up near the Arusha National Park boundary. How big a house would you need?

Please do stay in touch as I find your KBC-JCL alternative energy projects interesting. You talk of Lake Chala, the last time I was there it had been turned into an illegal brewing zone and not a very safe place.

Stay in touch as I am a farmer as well as a safari guide and I am sure we can co-operate on some of your stuff.

I know the Foxes a little and will connect with him.
At 11:31pm on August 12, 2009, karlijn arkesteijn said…
Thanks once more. I agree that the jatropha projects I know have not reached the commercial size that is necessary to create a (local) jatropha oil based energy sector. It would be interesting to know what the critical factor is: financing?, availability of degraded land?, growing/ harvest characteristics of jatropha, processing, etc. I still think that very valid information can be collected from research institutes and practical (pilot) projects. This are the partners to give body to the "centres of excellence". I am happy you already know Diligent and please feel free to contact them and refer to me - I informed them about our contact.
At 10:37pm on August 10, 2009, karlijn arkesteijn said…
Hi Clive,

Thanks for your detailed elaboration on your project. Currently, I am not working in East Africa anymore ( i should indeed update my profile) but am happy to link you with Mr Koen Peters from Diligent: Diligent is the only company I know that has practical experience with growing, pressing, blending and using jatropha (seeds, plants, oil). They have their operations in Arusha and would be a fantastic partner to avoid inventing the wheel again.

Wish you good luck with all plans!
At 1:18pm on August 8, 2009, Dr Johann Wingard said…
To explain my numbers below, I assumed that a hectare could yield 3 tonnes of oil, which after work-up would amount to 1 ton of Jetfuel per hectare, thus 12 million tons of jet fuel would use 12 million hectares to grow the biomass. If I am out by a factor of three or four, one still talks of an area the size of Belgium. In my previous posting I said that 30,000 ha would be possible per annum. Sorry, that is also not feasible. A total of 3000 ha p.a. would be closer to the mark, giving 360,000 ha after 12 years. The extension costs of this drastically reduced area, taking your number of $4,000 per ha, would amount to US$1,2 Billion over the 12 year period, before any roads or infrastructures are built.
The problem is that the growing seasson is only six months and harvesting takes probably less than four months, so additional problems would arise i.t.o. areas and facilities.
It is clear that some twenty or more estates of about 18,000ha each will be required, spread over twenty or more countries to arrive at a large scale production entity of 360,000 hectares over 12 years.
At 12:43pm on August 7, 2009, Dr Johann Wingard said…
Ideally the different asset centres could be adjacent to one another if the immediate hinterland would provide the 300,000 ha p.a. extensions, but the extensions need to be much smaller. Considering that 1 square kilometer is 100 hectares, one talks of 300 square kilometers per year. For 12 million ha, one talks of nearly 120,000 square kilometers or an area of 350 km x 350 km, which is four times the surface area of Belgium or the size of England.

With due respect, its hopelessly overambitious and unattainable. It is orders of magnitude greater than what is possible in Africa.
In earlier times I was a Governor of the South African Chamber for AGRICULTURAL Development in Africa (SACADA). I visited most subsaharan countries and had discussions at ministerial and presidential levels. We discussed several projects and in each case the human element seemed to fail any large scale venture. Not that there is anything wrong with the Africans...purely and simply that they did not go through the rigours of a 100 to 200 year industrial revolution, where many arts and skills became encoded into the fibre of society, as is the case in Industrialised countries.

To come back to earth from the lofty clouds discussed earlier, I suggest that a 30,000 hectares extension p.a would be possible, with a time horison stretching over 40 years.
At 11:51am on August 7, 2009, Peter Beerens said…
Hi Clive,

Some interesting ideas being posted on this page. As an engineer I'm involved in a Jatropha project in Malawi with a main focus on biofuel production from the seedmaterial. Several waste streams are made into vlaue-added products to make the whole operation worthwhile.

Johann has lot's of good idea's on the large scale processing judging from his post. I agree with Johann that Jatropha Curcas is probably not the best choice for BTL production as its perennial and one needs to seperate seeds from other biomass. You were mentioning 40Mt biomass/hectare in an earlier post. I would say this is a fairly high number for 2000 trees. I'd expect at max 4 tons of seeds and maybe 10 tons of pruning material. Can you clarify these high estimates? My specialism in this field is centered around oil extraction and oil utilization. If you have any requests on decentralized processing of the Jatropha seed material please feel free to contact me at

Best regards,
Peter Beerens
At 12:22pm on August 6, 2009, Dr Johann Wingard said…
You are right, there is still a long way to go before a rational model has evolved.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to divide the project into discreet asset centres, each one being driven by a different set of technologies and requiring different types of skills.

To take the project forward, I would start at the feedstock:

1. Field operations: Harvesting, baling equipment, and materials handling to load the biomass on trucks. This is decentralised and located at the different A depots. Area of A depots about 100 ha each

2. Transportation, workshops to maintain the trucks, refueling stations, Road maintenance equipment and supporting facilities. These are decentralised and managed at the B depots, which are located at the optimum locations between growing regions. Size of B depots 200 ha each

3. Oil extraction, biomass communition and hydrolysis, storage and waste management. . There would also be storage tanks to keep the bio-oil from the pyrolysis plant and the crude JCO. Again it would be decentralised as it occupies huge plot areas of at least 400 ha each. A solution needs to be found for the carbon by-product from the pyrolysis plant in the form of char. Briquetting could be a proposition using starch as binder.

So on Depot C we have
- biomass shredders,
-Modular Biomass pyrolysis plants, each with a capacity of 200 tpd or 60,000 tpa.
-JCO presses with solvent extraction assist. Suggested Capacity 50 tpd.
-Waste management system
- Oil cleaning and storage

4. Refinery: Receives and processes the crude JCO as well as the pyrolysed bio-oil (PBO) from the various depots. The PBO is equivalent to Nrs 2 and 6 heating oil used in industry and as shipping fuels and would require an expensive hydrogenation plant to refine it further. It would not be economical to do so.
The JCO is transesterifised and refined to Jetfuel and significant amounts of glycerol, waste alcohol and contaminated water from the dehydration process need to be disposed of.

These four discreet asset centres each requires optimization. Unlike CTL plants, where coal is delivered directly to the gasifiers by conveyors via a stacking and reclaiming facility, a biomass plant requires a road transport system, which puts a cap on the size of the operation, especially for a developing economy such as that of Tanzania.

I am a little confused, however. Are you planning for the JCL trees to be pruned and to bale the curttings, seeds and all for transportation to the Pyrolysis plants? If so, it would not be feasible, as the separation of the seeds for oil extraction and the remaining biomass for PBO production will be nearly impossible to achieve. Separation should take place during harvesting. This would rule JCL out as candidate cultivar in favour of annual crops.

Perhaps one should simplify the model and exclude tyhe pyrolysis section and work on oil from seed only. The Pyrolysis option could then be reserved for a second project where sweet sorghum is planted and harvested to yield bio-ethanol, food, animal feed and PBO in a much simpler plant configuration. In addition, instead of having to import huge quantities of methanol for the transesterification process, home brewed ethanol could be used instead. In addition, adequate spaces could be left for the sorghum be planted. Sweet sorghum is a hardy cultivar which perofrms well on marginal soils. In addition, by combining JCL and Sweet Sorghum, one is not directed to poor soils only and good soils could be used for higher yields.

My model would be a conmbination of the two, so as
a) it would produce an income after one season already,
b) one would become selfsufficient i.t.o food and feed production,
c) one becomes self sufficient with ethanol production for jet fuel transesterification,
d) The PBO from the sorghums biomass is used for power generation using a combined cycle turbine system.
e) Imagine the carbob credits to be earned this way!!
At 10:00am on August 6, 2009, CLIVE RICHARDSON said…
We are considering a range of methodologies for processing Jatropha Curcas harvested Biomass. Pyrolysis seems to be a very valid way to derive Bio Oil from the Biomass which in turn can be modified to more advanced fuels by further processing. Essentially what is proposed as a Biorefinery for the Kilimanjaro Region is a complete engineered solution for extracting the maximum value from biomass harvested from Jatropha Curcas. The only reason for building an industry based on Jatropha is that the plant can deliver high levels of utility and energy values from hitherto under utilized, degraded or marginal (peripheral to the main food land use) rain fed lands.

Your observation regarding bulk density is quite correct. Hence the requirement to consider chipping the harvested biomass and compressing this into a more dense raw feedstock for transportation to the refinery. I don't think that we would be able to get any where near the density of coal but we may manage up to a 500Kg/cubic meter. (NB: I am talking about biomass inclusive of seeds, leaves, and lightly lignified branches, not just seed harvesting).

Getting the engineering right in order to afford systematic (30,000Ha/p.a) agricultural extension services, plant species support, harvest improvements and then turning to harvesting technologies, for me, is all about Agricultural Architecture and of course the solutions are very much driven from practical engineering responses.

Your idea for 100,000Mt of Crude Jatropha oil actually hits on a need for up to 30,000Ha's of Jatropha Curcas Stands. Give or take CJO being about 4-6% of the total harvest value. Of course no one in their right mind is going to pump $4000 USD (This is a conservative estimation of the total cost of quality agricultural extension)/Ha just to gain back 2.4 Mt of Oil (Average under very supported agricultural program, with reasonable rain, good sunlight hours, minimal wind or pest damage) which in turn has to be purchased in order to complete the first cycle of extension to harvest. Its no good the the investors living on cloud nine, this is a today value of about $300 USD per tonne (irrespective of the price the Jatropha Alliance may quote, its not in Rotterdam). No! That 94% of the harvested biomass has to deliver the value statement desired. CJO has to be a very nice part of "the" range of products. Also, in terms of least cost least Green House Gas emissions we need that oil and the Bio Oil for Jet Fuel. This is why the Biorefinery is at the Airport. We actually need up to 40% of the biomass delivered FOB for fuelling aircraft at KIA. (Bio Oil and CJO processed to Jat 8)

After 12 years (2 years build up to first harvest and ten years of extension) we might be discussing 12 Million tonnes of Bio mass for processing per annum. I agree this is a massive amount of material to harvest, handle and process. In all we are discussing a regional footprint radius 75Km (Say 240Km/sq) where up to 500,000Ha's of Jatropha Curcas could be cultivated without impacting upon the current arable (food and other cash crop) land use. Strategic location has been one of my interests with Jatropha, not just for the least cost most efficient GHG emissions reduction or rain fed route to a good harvest but also in terms of growing, getting the support to farmers and delivering the harvest to a process zone. Kilimanjaro region has a reasonable (far from perfect and by no means comprehensive) major and minor road network. If we get harvest biomass bailed to 500Kg/sq meter cubes then we would be using forty tonne trucks to ship 20 tonnes of harvest value. Thats two compressed harvest truck loads per Ha of extension so 60,000 per 30,000Ha's of agricultural extension. Of course contrary to popular conceptions decentralised peripheral marginal farm lands don't come in regular blocks they will be made up of clumps of Ha's. (Ha ha, most people who have read a report on Jatropha have not the faintest clue as to what 100Ha's of land looks like let alone a 1000Ha's or thousands of Ha's. They have this image of estates (like Coffee or Tea) without actually appreciating that we are not dealing with areas of land that were targeted by governments and massive government supported companies like Brook Bond at a time when taking land for cash cropping was driven by colonial administrations. However we can assume that our extension of Jatropha will discover areas where there is sufficient density of cultivation to afford collection points for primary processing into 500Kg Cubes that can then be sent into the central biorefinery. (NB. I don't reject the notion of decentralised opportunity and it is possible that one might extract seed oil at decentralised locations for transport into the biorefinery complex. However; under any circumstance we need to process 100% of harvest values). Some of this value, directly from the biorefinery and from associated CHP or waste processing in Moshi and Arusha, will be redirected back out to the Jatropha cultivations as fertilizer and as said the plant requires other inputs in order to deliver quality harvests. This may mean that up to 40% of journeys out to the cultivation areas will have a load to carry. Delivery of additional goods to these locations may improve the economics of the logistics associated with harvest collection. (Yes as soon as possible all trucks would run on the fuels made by the over all project). Still we are possibly discussing some two major peaks for harvest time and 60,000 journeys of an average of 75Km so 4,500,000Km/p.a. and it costs about 35cts (fuel, repairs, driver, insurance and depreciation per Km) Cost $1,575,000 USD .This is per 30,000Ha of cultivation. Of curse without any development there would not be such movement and so no GHG emissions, now we have an additional 4.5 million Km of emissions plus the additions from processing to consider.

Given that we are proposing a build up of 30,000Ha's per annum we can add the value of trucking to 45,000,000Kms of transport by year 12 in order to deliver the 12 MIllion tonnes of Biomass to the Biorefinery p.a.

Now we get back to your expertise but, BMTL (Biomass to Liquid). Starting with the idea that one would be seeking to process BM at 1.2 Million Tonnes and then working towards 12 million tonnes p.a. how would one engineer the Bio refinery in an expandable modularformat ? In fact, one would be looking at a lot more Biomass as the region has coffee and sugar waste as well as sisal and other crop residues that could be compressed and delivered to the biorefinery for processing. My estimate is that we could get back 40% of the bio mass as bio oil and that there would be opportunity to derive electricity as well as other products from the remaining 60%. (I am just leaving the CJO in the mix not thinking about oil extraction).

Certainly there needs to be a design that allows for a complete engineered solution that will deliver Bio Jet Fuel + additional liquid fuels and lubricants. (NB Crude CJO is best value for high value lubricants) If we were to get the mix of energy values to be appropriate it will be worthwhile to fly in to fuel up as Jat 8 would possibly be very price competitive with fossil Jet fuel. (NB Not placing too much emphasis on the inter crop for Jatropha Curcas but it will be Castor seed Oil where possible and again this forms part of the strategic use of the land) Castor grows great in between the Jatropha.

What would be the cost of establishing a MBTL operation like this? Pipeline to Dar would be out of the question but one to Nairobi (much closer) is a thought. How many fuelings are required for take up of the Jat 8 ? On an empty tank a 747 can upload 180 Mt's of fuel at 40% of 1.2 MMt thats 2,666 full fuel deliveries. (Current Value $287,928,000 USD). (Will it be very difficult to shift ten times this amount at year 12 of the operations? Is it possible that the Air companies see the value in fuel transport aircraft in support of bio jet fuel up take)NB: Despite what ever rubbish the oil companies may seek to stress about the compexity of Jet fuel it is possible to fly transcontinental jets on 100% bio derived fuels.
At 8:42am on August 5, 2009, Dr Johann Wingard said…
Many thanks for your thoughtful insights. You certainly have done a lot of research into the JCL industry and it shows in your line of argumentation.

I am an engineer and not a scientist, although I hold several high-tech patents in my name, e.g. a plasma arc gasification process to gasify coal for ultra high yield CTL production, as well as a high tech gas turbine for distributed power generation.
As an engineer one is enclined to focus on the HOW and not so much on the WHAT. A critical impediment is usually found to be the logistics in bringing the feedstocks to the plant.

In the case of a biofuels project, we are dealing with a feedstock with a low bulk density, roughly 100 kg/cubic meter. This compares with coal at 800 kg/cu. meter. To transport 12 million tons of biomass per annum would require a capability of 40,000 tons per day. For coal that would have required 1000x 40 ton truckloads per day. For biomass, it would probably require 8000 forty ton trucks per day. A veritable army that dwarfs the Desert Storm fleet.

That line of thinking is therefore fundamentally flawed and the logistics of moving the biomass to the plant needs careful planning. To me it is very clear that a two stage approach will be needed.

1. The oil press stations will need to be decentralised and located in the hearts of each production area, probably in the agri-village established for the workers. I visualise that about 200 such stations would be needed. The crude oil is then sent to the central refinery, and less than 20% of the mass needs to be transported.
2. A bio-fuel refinery situated near the airport and on a railway line, which receives
the crude oil for transesterefication. The bulk tanks will supply the fuel to the airport as well as to rail tankers to other airports and harbours.

At 280 barrels per day, a dedicated underground pipeline to Dar es Salaam would be justified. As you can see, one is talking about a forty year programme and with respect, I cannot see how the Tanzanian populace would have the stamina for such a project.

My advice would be to go the modular route and have the ultimate capacity open ended; the philosophy being that the facilities will be ramped up to follow the markets and supply of feedstocks. That means one discusses not the grand ultimate scale but the minimum kick off scale, which I maintain should not be more than 100,000 t.p.a.

Anybody could wrap their minds around a scale of that magnitude and it would be easier to obtain environmental approvals without attracting international criticism which is aimed at negating compettitive projects.
Modular plants could also be decentralised and situated at most economical sites.

At 11:02pm on August 4, 2009, Dr Johann Wingard said…
For large scale plants, which are greater than 100,000 tons of biofuels per annum, one would require highly mechanised agricultural operations to make it a practical proposition. This would hardly contribute to any significant relief of the unemployment situation. To harvest 100,000 hectares within a four to six month time period would require a huge fleet of combine harvesters, supported by another fleet of tractors and tipping trailers. At the receiving end one would need an underground materials handling system. which would convey the raw seed toward a series of silos, which would feed the crushing plant where the raw oil is being extracted.

A 100,000 t.p.a oil production entity would require a materials handling capability of >350 tph, for 6 months of the year. In agricultural terms, one is talking of a substantial scale operation. To increase this size to a million tpa, which would be 10 times the above scale, does not seem credible, quite apart from the chemical plant.
At 2:14pm on August 4, 2009, Matthew Matimbwi said…
How have you integrated the food security in the area.
At 4:28pm on August 3, 2009, Dr Johann Wingard said…

You talk of 5000 kg/ha of Jatropha curcas linn oil being possible. I must concede, this would change my thinking somewhat, as it is more than 2.5 times the best commercial yields I have heard of. I would like to know of any commercial project anywhere that produces anything near that number on a sustainable basis.

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