Alien vegetation biomass beneficiation: Benefit for South Africa

Biomass beneficiationSouth Africa is deeply affected by Invasive Alien Vegetation (IAV). These species have been identified as contributing to the reduction of our natural water supply. This finding led to the creation of several key associations such as Working for Water, to focus on the problem. The environmental impact of these plants is significant, particularly regarding the quantity of water they absorb: At least 400 million m3/year water is absorbed, equating to the city of Durban’s annual water supply.

WWF South Africa is actively involved in subsidizing the clearing of this alien vegetation. At the beginning of 2016, they partnered with Tomorrow Matters Now | TOMA-Now to focus on optimizing the beneficiation value of the alien biomass removed. The year-long project was initiated in February 2016, and aims to identify relevant processes, applications and beneficiations in the treatment of IAV. It focuses on the Riviersonderend and George areas, where WWF is currently subsidizing alien clearing. The objective of this project is to assess the benefits and limitations of the current use and biomass beneficiation options and make recommendations on how the uses can be combined and cross-subsidised to ensure maximum value.

Biomass beneficiation could bring several significant advantages to the economy, the environment and have far-reaching social impact in these areas. The project has potential to create new manufacturing and jobs in the biomass beneficiation application sectors. The removal of IAV will unlock significant amounts of water, while the biomass itself could bring other positive effects depending on the application areas. Topics related to jobs creation, skills development, investments in education could be all become areas to benefit. Current work is to find where value with the biomass can possibly be unlocked.

This project will focus on mapping the value chain for selected viable biomass beneficiation applications, identifying gaps and opportunities within the different parts of the value chain: IAV treatment (felling, extraction, harvesting), processing the biomass, logistics requirements, manufacturing and product development. These steps are carefully analysed, in order to identify the cost, value and potential issues arising.

Several biomass beneficiation application areas have already been identify as relevant: energy, wood pellets, activated carbon, biochar and school desks. The coming months will help us to define what is the most relevant and valuable applications.

To ensure this project is fully viable with the intended impacts, we need to engage with relevant stakeholders. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to share information or ideas.