First biodiesel fuel station in East Africa

5 April, 2011, Esther Nakkazi

Pure fuels East Africa Ltd, a pioneer producer of biodiesel in the region based in Mombasa, has been using Jatropha from Tanzania and blending it with diesel

The first ever biodiesel fuel station will open in Mombasa, Kenya, next month, offering consumers a cheap, environmentally friendly alternative.

Biodiesel, a blend of a biofuel from a renewable resource like jatropha, cottonseed, groundnuts or pumpkin seed plus diesel can run in any conventional diesel engine with no modification requirements.[frax09alpha]

The product is a biodiesel blend, a mixture of five percent Jatropha, with 95 percent diesel, which offers consumers 10-20 percent less than the pump price of conventional fuel. And, it increases national security by reducing a country’s dependency on imported fuel.

Pure fuels East Africa Ltd, a pioneer producer of biodiesel in the region based in Mombasa, has been using Jatropha from Tanzania and blending it with diesel.

“We shall increase the proportions to 20:80 when we increase capacity. The more the biofuel in the blend, the cheaper the biodiesel,” said Daniel Mugenga, managing director, Pure fuels (E.A) Ltd.

With the biofuels proportions much bigger in the blend, consumers could save up to 20 percent at the pump, while the producer makes a 30 percent profit on the now tax-free biofuels.

“Diesel consumption of trucks is reduced by 10 percent, which can be attributed to the engine cleaning property of biodiesel,” said John Mwangi a client and fleet manager based in Mombasa.

Now, with high ambitions to increase output, they intend to purchase their own vessel, by mid this year, that will transport cheaper semi-processed biofuel from India or China. The company will also open another biodiesel refinery in Kampala, Uganda.

Since mid 2008, when Pure Fuels opened shop in Mombasa and then went into commercial production in May 2010, the company has had low operations.

Customers have been limited to marginal numbers, supplying only over 60 heavy commercial trucks and buses, however, they are about to expand to include telecom companies base station generators.

According to Mugenga, they will increase annual production from the current 120,000 to one million litres by 2013 and even more when the business stabilizes.

The move comes as the region grapples with skyrocketing, unstable fuel prices. Last week, fuel pump prices went up by at least 3-6 percent across the region, blamed on international prices and depreciation of the local currencies against the dollar.

With the annual growth of diesel consumption surpassing petrol in the region, mostly used in thermal electricity generation and in powering of telecom companies mobile base stations, it would be important to replace it with the cleaner and cheaper biodiesel, an environmentalist said.

What happens is that the blended biodiesel, unclogs the sulphur and carbon deposits in the fuel injection system, allowing the engine to run efficiently and it eventually consume less fuel.

Furthermore, the smoke emitted from the exhaust pipes is not black put pale or colorless while the fumes have a lighter and better smell than the usual carbon monoxide.
But overall, biodiesel blend offers a more environmentally friendly fuel, reducing harmful emissions such as carbon monoxide, sulphur monoxide and air particles by up to 50 percent.

While diesel exhaust gives off a mixture of gases and soot that contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants. Studies show that these contaminants include many known or suspected cancer and respiratory infections causing substances such as benzene, arsenic and formaldehyde.

The blend biodiesel also has both economic and social spin offs creating employment in rural areas for jatropha growers and other biofuels like groundnuts, pumpkin seed, cottonseed and maize that have a positive community contribution to the agricultural populations.

For telecom companies base stations, using biodiesel would require fewer site visits effected by the cleaner burning of the fuel, it extends the life of the base station generator and reduces operator costs.

“We have field trials with a telecom company, fuelling their base stations with blend biodiesel. This will enable them to save and keep the environment clean,” said Mugenga who declined to name the mobile company until the trials are complete soon.

Environmentalists say biodiesel has advantages over conventional diesel as a power source for base stations, as it has a lower impact on the environment.

Probably, it would also affect prices of mobile phone calls in the region, which, are influenced by the expensive diesel that runs the base station generators in rural areas without hydropower.

“Diesel consumption of trucks is reduced by 10 percent, which can be attributed to the engine cleaning property of biodiesel,” said John Mwangi a client and fleet manager based in Mombasa.

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