An investigation into the production of glycerol biofuel from microalgae in South Africa.
Bloomfield, Max Iain Duncan Bell.
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Energy provision in South Africa is going through great changes in this first half of the 21ˢᵗ century. Ensuring delivery of electricity to all households within the country, along with continued industrial growth, has left the national electricity provider and distributor, Eskom, with insufficient capacity. Understanding of environmental and health issues related to traditional energy generation methods, along with local and international political pressure has moved the South African Government to commit to long-term energy-efficiency and renewable energy targets. In recent years the door has begun to open to foreign and private investment on the energy-supply side. At the same time, the efficiency and price of alternative renewable energy sources has significantly improved, as global investments continue to rise. Confidence in the reliability of these technologies has risen, as developed countries demonstrate greater dependence on them, and prove that they can compete with traditional fossil fuels. This is further improved as a financial cost looms on the existing environmental and health costs associated with carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The use of microalgae to produce stable, transportable liquid fuels at greater efficiencies than traditional biofuels, in open ponds is investigated here. For the purpose of this study the microalgae Dunaliella salina producing glycerol as a biofuel is used, but the results could apply universally to the use of open raceway ponds. Geographic Information System analysis of the maximum and minimum temperature ranges, rainfall and solar irradiance shows that 11.3% of South Africa is well suited to this technology. Mapping of the 59 biggest emitters of carbon dioxide in South Africa reveal that 5 are located within this area, and within 500 m of a major river. Despite the great variation of external factors across South Africa, the results of this study show great promise for this type of renewable technology.
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