Can organic waste fuel the buses in Johannesburg? : A study of potential, feasibility, costs and environmental performance of a biomethane solution for public transport

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Industriell miljöteknik; Linköpings universitet/Industriell miljöteknik

Author: Johanna Niklasson; Linnea Bergquist Skogfors; [2018]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: Like many large cities, Johannesburg faces several sustainability challenges such as unsustainable use of natural resources, emissions contributing to environmental- and waste related problems. The city is a provincial transport centre, and the transport sector is responsible for a large share of the city’s energy demand and emissions. To approach several of these challenges simultaneously the City of Johannesburg considers the possibilities to use renewable, waste-based, fuel for public transport and has shown a great interest in how Sweden produce and use biogas.  In this study an early assessment of the potential, feasibility, economic costs and environmental performance of a waste-based biomethane solution in Johannesburg is performed, with the purpose to fuel a public transport bus fleet. This has been done by developing and using a multi-criteria analysis (MCA). The MCA consists of four categories: potential, feasibility, economic costs and environmental performance. These categories consist of 17 key areas with corresponding key questions and indicators with relating scales used for scoring the indicators. The indicators and scales help identify what information is necessary to collect for the assessment. Furthermore, an Excel tool and a questionnaire are provided to serve as a help when performing the assessment. The feasibility assessment is conducted both for the city as a whole as well as for individual feedstocks. Information for the studied case was gathered from a literature study and interviews in Johannesburg with local experts and potential stakeholders.  The identified feedstocks in Johannesburg are landfill gas, waste from a fruit and vegetable market, organic household waste, abattoir waste, waste from the food industry, waste management companies and sewage sludge from the wastewater treatment plants (WWTP). The identified biomass potential is 230,000 tonnes of dry matter/year, generating a total biomethane potential of 91,600,000 Nm3/year, which is enough to fuel almost 2700 buses. In the process of producing biogas, digestate is created. The digestate can be used as biofertilizer and recycle nutrients when used in agriculture. The complete biomass potential in Johannesburg was not identified meaning there is additional potential, from e.g. other food industries, than examined in this study.  Assuming that all feedstocks except for landfill gas and WWTP sludge are processed in one biogas plant, the investment cost for this biogas plant is 28 million USD and the total operation and maintenance cost is 1.4 million USD per year. The investment cost and yearly operating cost for the upgrading plant is 43 million USD and 2.4 million USD respectively. Finally, the distribution costs were calculated, including compression and investment in vessels. The investment and operational costs for compression is 7.4 million USD and 220,000 USD/year respectively. The investment cost for the vessels was calculated to 15 million USD and the operational costs of the distribution 16 million USD/year. Consideration should be given to the fact that the numbers used when calculating these costs comes with uncertainties. Most indicators in the feasibility assessment of the city as a whole were given the score Poor, but some indicators were scored Satisfactory or Good. The assessment of the individual feedstocks led to a ranking of the most to the least feasible feedstocks where the waste from the fruit and vegetable market and the municipal household waste are considered being in the top. This assessment also shows the feedstocks are in general quite suitable for biomethane production. The issue is the lack of economic and legislative support and strategies not working in favour of biomethane. These are areas that can be improved by the local or national government to give better conditions for production of biomethane in the future. Some examples of this are a proposed landfill tax or landfill ban as well as a closing of the landfills due to the lack of new land. This could all contribute to better conditions for biomethane solutions in the future. Main identified hinders are electricity generation from biogas as a competitor with biomethane, and a general lack of knowledge about biogas and biomethane, from the high-level decision makers to a workforce lacking skills about construction and operation of biogas plants. 

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