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Biomass logs to be produced in North West

The Bakgatla Ba Kgafela Tribal Administration (BBKTA) will shortly start producing compressed biomass logs, made of recycled green materials, at its Mogwase factory in the North West.
In 2010, it signed an agreement to buy an 80% stake in Bioflame, a Johannesburg-based company formed in 2008. Concerned about the environment, BBK-Bioflame has created 'Eco Log', a product made of recycled green materials such as branches, leaves and vegetation waste. Reportedly, the only South African company that manufactures a compressed biomass log for braais/barbecues and fireplaces.

Kgosi Nyalala Pilane, traditional leader of the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela (BBK) nation, is the driving force behind the investment, which he predicts will go a long way towards arresting South Africa's environmental degradation, while simultaneously generating a sustainable long term return on investment for the BBK people.

Since his inauguration as Kgosi of the BBK in April 1996, his drive, determination and business acumen has attracted several key development opportunities to the Moruleng region of the North West Province, the highest profile of which is the its substantial minority stake in JSE-listed platinum producer Platmin.

Large potential

He is confident that the innovation has potential because:
  • Around 80% of the world's population still uses wood for cooking and heating;
  • Gauteng alone consumes 31 824 tons of wood a month, equivalent to 1 000 tons a day;
  • In Gauteng, Bioflame currently accounts for no more than 3% of prospective demand for the Eco Log.

Pilane says that an ideal source of prospective raw materials, one that is far from being sufficiently exploited, is municipal waste.

"Every year some 1000 tons of materials suitable for conversion into Eco Logs are buried, burned or converted into compost. The company is visiting the larger municipalities regularly to explain the nature of the new technology for recycling their green waste.

"With the support of local government and municipalities in the North West, the company can be a trailblazer in Africa, by providing a successful example of how sustainability can encompass economic success, protect and conserve the environment and create skills and jobs," explains the company's MD, Manfred Meyer.

Likewise, the country's sawmills generate significant volumes of waste, volumes that are not turned to good account. For them, the solution is starting to appeal not only as a green option but also as a means of generating additional revenues for the sawmills by way of carbon credits.

Distributors appointed

Pilane is confident that company's inputs, current and future, are well secured. The company is targeting already-appointed chain store and petrol station distributors as a distribution network. In line with the production of such an environmentally friendly product, the manufacturing facility, located in Mogwase, North West is built on eco conscious principles.

"Our manufacturing facilities had to support our product vision and practically support the company's vision, to lead the way in Africa where alternative energy and green living is concerned," says Meyer.

European expansion

In Europe, Bioflame has appointed an exclusive distributor for France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Switzerland and in Ireland, it has formed a company to set up a biomass plant with a capacity of 5000 tons a year. Bioflame Shamrock is in the process of building up to optimum production.

Pilane maintains that the price BBKTA is paying for its 80% stake in Bioflame is "more than reasonable."

"For the BBK, this is an ideal investment from several standpoints. Quite apart from business considerations, of which there are several, our people, being largely based in rural areas, will hopefully understand the benefits of an environmentally-friendly fuel."

BBK-Bioflame will be exhibiting at the CCR Expo at COP17 in Durban at the end of November 2011.