Ground-breaking waste-to-energy plant opens in Cape Town


Ground-breaking waste-to-energy plant opens in Cape Town

The first large-scale waste-to-energy plant in Africa will be opened in Athlone in Cape Town, with the aim of converting municipal solid waste into energy.

The state-of-the-art R400-million biogas plant is expected to create 80 full-time jobs and few hundred indirect jobs. The plant is owned by New Horizons Energy, a subsidiary of Clean Energy Africa. An innovative partnership with waste management company Waste Mart has been a boost and the culmination of five years of planning.

Waste Mart will deliver over 500 t/d of organic household, municipal and industrial waste to the plant. This will be converted into renewable, clean energy. New Horizons has set itself a goal of achieving zero waste to landfill, ensuring that all usable waste brought into the plant is developed into environmentally sensitive, high quality products.

“We have been working on this for years. It’s been a dream come true, and we plan to have everything fully commissioned by May,” said New Horizons Energy CEO Egmond Ottermann.

Usable waste will be converted into various products, including organic fertiliser, liquid carbon dioxide (CO2), compressed biomethane, recyclables and refuse-derived fuel.

African Oxygen (Afrox) has also come on board as a key partner. It has an offtake agreement to use the gas that is produced.

Liquid CO2 will be pumped into storage tanks and collected by tanker trucks, while biomethane is compressed, odourised and stored in tank trailers, which will be collected regularly.

“For Afrox it’s a sustainable green offering that our customers are looking for. It’s a good news story from birth to graveyard in terms of managing a waste stream,” said Afrox head of commercial and projects Silvia Schollenberger.

She said Afrox was looking forward to the opening up of even more opportunities through the waste plant.

About 10% of Cape Town’s total waste will go through the plant instead of to landfill. Ottermann believes there’s much room for growth, as well as expansion into other streams.

“We’re enhancing the recycling economy. There’s great potential in the future to make products such as plastic bricks and roof tiles. Over the lifetime of this plant, we expect many more little industries to be established close to the plant, so that we can drive zero waste to landfill.”

A shortage of landfill sites, with much pressure on landfill space in Cape Town, helped to spark the development.

“Cape Town has grown tremendously over the past ten years. Afrox has seen shortages of CO2 and methane especially in summer, so this is a good idea on various levels,” said Ottermann.

The waste will be drawn from normal municipal solid waste (the regular black bags), as well as waste from food manufacturers, shops, bakeries and breweries – most of it with a relatively high organic content. Food scraps from restaurants are also included in the mix.

The plant will charge tipping fees.

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) financed 60% of the plants value.

“We’re very excited about the plant. It can help to replace imported fuels by taking the waste and making gas out of the resource. Most importantly, it’s creating jobs. We also believe that there is massive opportunity for replication throughout South Africa and Africa,” said IDC green industry specialist Raoul Goosen.