Sunday, May 18, 2008
Scaling Up Bio-Diesel
The experiment in Binkolo was publicized far and wide. The two Canadian journalists working for JHR both aired separate radio reports. I took part in what turned out to be a 1.5 hour discussion group, broadcast over Radio Maria with a huge response from callers to the program. The next day, Ismael Bangura and Foday Kamara were both interviewed about their intentions and expectations. Kamara in particular was articulate. UN radio, the main national broadcaster, interviewed me one morning. The whole notion of fuel manufacture in Sierra Leone has induced some excitement and we are encouraged to move this along.
I prepared the business case and outlined the risks for the two groups The Binkolo food processing group headed by Ishmael were somewhat cautious because of the investment that needs to be made in equipment and materials. I was disappointed since I and others had supported them. However agricultural equipment manufacturer FINIC controlled by Foday Kamara was more than keen to make the needed investment in money, time and effort. Kamara has a farm where he also does small scale manufacture located in a small village Masumana. The village is about 50 kms from Freetown and on the way to Makeni; an ideal location because of the main road access.
Last week we got together again to plan the next experiment and the scaling up. We agreed to order the chemicals, methanol and potassium hydroxide from a UK supplier. Kamara has plans for a 1,500 liter reactor compared to the puny existing 200 liter job. I met an agent in Freetown who is prepared to do the importing / customs paperwork (read bribes) and so the stage is set. Yesterday the order was placed and we should see the shipment in Freetown in a month. I wont be there (probably a good thing) but I am confident that Kamara will take the reins very capably. Kamara meanwhile has been experimenting on small scale machinery that uses simple, single stroke engines. He has been delighted that the palm nut oil, crudely separated from the glycerin by using soda is sufficient to run these engines for two weeks without a problem.
A small farming group was invited to Masumana last week and having seen the presentation they have agreed to plant a new crop known as Jatropha. The bush locally known as Fignut Tree has traditionally been used for medicinal purposes. However it is ideal for oil production since it is not only high in production but it is not a competitive food source, and is not consumed by other animals. Importantly it grows in an arid climate. So in a couple of years we should have a good supply of home grown oil and hopefully a new small industry.