University of Botswana unveils pioneering research work

Potential end users of the B20 biodiesel produced by the University of Botswana (UB) have been urged to dispel any doubts associated with the new product and accept the biodegradable alternative fuel.

The University launched the use of the B20 biodiesel on selected vehicles at the Gaborone campus. The scaling up of the University of Botswana bio-diesel production to the commercial level has never been more positive given promising data released from the pilot project.

Biodiesel production is a government-funded joint project between the University of Botswana, the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), and the Department of Energy in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, and Energy.

Addressing stakeholders including officials from UB, Botswana Oil, Debswana Mining company, and the press at the launch this past week, Principal Investigator in the Biodiesel project Prof. Clever Ketlogetswe expressed disappointment at the fear and skepticism that has surrounded the pilot project.

“All the technical aspects of biodiesel production and testing have been accomplished and I am satisfied with the scientific data generated during the implementation phase of our investigation."

Prof. Ketlogetwswe explained: “Despite all these good works, the development of biodiesel sector in Botswana is facing a huge challenge, which requires a collective effort, to overcome to pave way for the development of biodiesel in Botswana.”

Prof. Ketlogetswe said the biggest challenge facing the development of biodiesel in Botswana is fear of the unknown by potential users of blended fuels such as B20. “We, therefore, need to seriously address the public belief that blended fuel is not good for our vehicles”.

Prof. Ketlogetswe emphasised the need to remove this fear of the unknown from every citizen of this country in order to unlock the development of biodiesel in Botswana, adding that the launch of the project is the start of igniting the process of removing this fear of the unknown.

“Blended fuel is the solution to some of our economic and environmental problems.” According to Prof. Ketlogetswe, the University of Botswana has been and continues to perform research on biodiesel production and testing its suitability to develop the required blends as per the biofuels guidelines for Botswana.

“The biofuels guidelines were launched by the Ministry of Minerals and Energy in January 2022. The guidelines are a clear indication of commitment by the government of Botswana to see the development of biodiesel in the country.”

Pro. Ketlogetswe assured all stakeholders that the technical aspects of biodiesel production and testing have been accomplished to satisfactory levels with the scientific data generated during the implementation phase of the investigation.

“The flashpoint for biodiesel is higher than 170oC compared with about 74oC for petroleum diesel.” The professor continued: “What all this means to our system is that we need to realign our Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) tool for biodiesel development to kick-start in the country.

“We should not use the same tool used for transforming crude oil into petroleum products. This is likely to accelerate the much-needed biodiesel production in the country.”

The locally-produced fuel according to Prof. Ketlogetswe is fully compatible with the emission control catalysis and filters designed to reduce nitrogen oxide and particular matter emissions from a new diesel engine.

“What modifications are we calling to be done in our diesel engines then? We produce biodiesel according to international standards, namely the ASTM and European biodiesel standards. Our biodiesel is subjected to several tests before producing the required blend using scientifically proven testing equipment.”

A buoyant Prof. Ketlogetswe explained that any fear or doubt has since been eliminated at the two credible organisations the University of Botswana, and Jwaneng Mining Company.

“On the day of the launch, UB demonstrated to the entire nation that blended fuel is safe and development of biodiesel in Botswana at a large scale should receive full support from all sectors of the economy.

“Very soon all the UB diesel cars will be running on blended fuel and slowly phasing out all its cars running on petrol."