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Biofuels - How Prepared is the Nigeria?

Nigeria
Vanguard
13/09/2010

In the wake of unending oil drilling catastrophes giving rise to massive destruction of the ecosystem, irresponsible onshore/offshore drilling practices, environmental concerns such as increased green house emissions (GHG), political instabilities within the oil-producing regions, rising concerns over the continual availability of fossil fuels- Nigeria's cardinal source of foreign exchange, fluctuating oil market, politics of oil trading within the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), brain-drain as a result of underemployment of Nigeria's university and polytechnic graduates, it has become exigent for Nigeria to join the rest of the world in the search for renewable energy which is biofuel.

Fanaei et.al (2008) defined biofuel as a liquid or gaseous fuel for the transport sector that is produced from biomass. Brazil and the United States are currently the world leading nations in biofuel production, utilizing sugarcane and corn respectively in the quest for this all important fuel. Brazil currently has motor vehicles that are engineered to run on only bioethanol- the most common of biofuels.

Notwithstanding these enviable feat, bioethanol is not yet a perfect fuel for operating the current design of motor vehicles given to so many shortcomings which include but not limited to corrosiveness of ethanol and its hygroscopic nature - high water content could lead to phase separation between the water and gasoline.

Currently five per cent to 30 per cent ethanol is blended with gasoline in so many developed countries as a means of reducing the carbon imprints associated with using pure gasoline, increased octane rating (ethanol is converted to ethyl tertiary-butyl ether to raise the octane level of gasoline and promote cleaner combustion) as well as serving as anti-knocking agent, are some of the known benefits of biofuel.

Until automobiles and other machines that use gasoline are re-designed to operate fully on biofuel, blending continues to be nearest and very necessary usage of bioethanol. Nigeria, nay Africa, can neither afford to convert sugarcane nor corn to biofuel for such common reasons such as the widely debated food versus fuel campaign which simply means that it will be inhuman to channel food to the production of fuel when the vast majority of the populace are nearly feeding from dustbins.

Other environmental impacts are the expensive irrigation practices and the pressure on land use. Extremely weak research activities to generate the best strains of crops taking the least time from germination to maturation as well as having desirable traits to make the entire process profitable.

Another minor/overcomeable issue could be poor management style as exemplified in almost every facet of the Nigerian life, this is one singular factor militating against us in the quest for total self-reliance. Having mentioned all these drawbacks, shall we rend our clothes and pour ash on our heads in defeat?

The answer is NO. There is an upheaval in the pursuit of biofuel production using agricultural, industrial and municipal wastes as primary substrates. Corn stover, crop straws, sugarcane bagasse, herbaceous crops (alfalfa, switch grass), short rotation woody crops, forestry residues, waste paper and other wastes (municipal and industrial) are currently used in the quest for sustainable biofuel production.

Currently the production volume is a little above 30 billion litres and climbing, this represents about two per cent of the total gasoline usage worldwide. Nigeria has environmental management problems, especially in the commercial cities.

Many cities are suffused with wastes as a result of extremely poor/inefficient disposal systems in place. Some of the systems in place were designed by the colonial masters and no longer technically feasible. Municipal wastes generated in everyday life could be turned into biofuels with the right technologies and of course the right attitude.

The switch grass, poplar, alfalfa, etc which can be used for our biofuel production grow on marginal lands and the need for irrigation and extensive monitoring is totally eliminated. Agricultural wastes could be channelled for the same process at no cost or threat to our food chain. Industrial wastes which as at now constitute a major bio-hazard are also cheap sources of our biofuel substrate.

Industrial waste could come from food and beverages processing companies, paper mills, etc. Biodegradable municipal solid wastes (BMSW) represent the cheapest and easiest means of providing substrate for our biofuel industry.

Nigeria is groaning under the burden of excessive municipal waste, the easiest form of disposal amongst city dwellers is to throw out the trash into drainages during light to heavy rainfall.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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