South Africa’s first commercially viable biogas project kicks off at BMW plant

BMW South Africa's Rosslyn plant in Pretoria — where the car manufacturer’s 3 Series is built — has made a partial switch to renewable energy produced by the South African biogas company Bio2Watt.

The two companies signed a power purchasing agreement in 2014, which set the ground for the first project of this kind in South Africa.

According to the German automaker, 25-30% of the Rosslyn facility’s electricity requirements will now be generated from renewable sources. 

The Bio2Watt biogas plant in Bronkhorstspruit is located on the premises of one of South Africa's larger feedlots and an agricultural stronghold in Gauteng.

The location provides the project with proximity to key fuel supplies, grid access, and sufficient water supplied by storm-water collection dams, with the City of Tshwane also supplying waste to the project.

At the Bronkhorstspruit biogas plant, about 40,000 tonnes of cattle manure and a further 20,000 tons of mixed organic waste per annum is fed into two anaerobic digesters that produce the biogas feedstock for a combined heat and power application.

Tim Abbott, managing director of BMW Group South Africa, has confirmed that there is a plan to transition the company's production facilities to be powered by 100% renewable sources by 2020.

‘We have increased the share of renewable energy as a percentage of total power consumed by the BMW Group to an impressive 51% in 2014. Our vision is to draw 100% of our energy requirements from renewable sources with the help of partners such as Bio2Watt,’ says Abbott.

Sean Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of Bio2Watt, says there was a lot of scepticism towards the project from various stakeholders. 

‘Having BMW as a partner on this project created credibility, which as a start-up company I wouldn't have had. We have kick-started an industry from waste and have created a precedent in South Africa to show that it actually can be done,’ says Thomas.

‘Because this had never been done before in South Africa, it has been an extraordinary eight-year journey to reach this point. It involved putting up my home as collateral, 1500 pages of legal documents, R8-million in legal fees, and we are now able to create 10 jobs per megawatt. The fact that we have come this far is testament to powerful partnerships,’ he concludes.

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