Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT has granted national project status to Bulawayo’s first ever solid waste-to-energy project, which is being developed by United Kingdom-based Pragma Leaf Consulting Zimbabwe under a special purpose vehicle, Diverseflex Resources (Pvt) Ltd, at a cost of US$150 million.
The project, which will among other things convert council waste to biodiesel, electricty and biogas, is expected to bridge the energy gap in the country while creating more than 2 000 jobs.
Projects awarded national project status get preferential treatment, which includes exemption from paying import duty and other taxes. The status is awarded to projects which have significant capital outlay in terms of equipment, services, and skills not presently available within Zimbabwe.
The national project status, granted by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, confers on Diverseflex Resources a five-year duty-free window to import eligible equipment and other benefits in terms of Sections 140 and 141 of the Customs and Excise (General) Regulations.
The granting of national project status to the Bulawayo waste-to-energy project demonstrates Government’s support for innovation and economic empowerment of indigenous people. According to Pragma Leaf, up to US$150 million value of investment will be channelled into Bulawayo under the project while more than 300 jobs would be created at the plant and about 2 000 jobs downstream.
The Bulawayo waste-to-energy plant will be the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. It will lead to the safe treatment of waste to produce liquid fuel, green jobs, and ensuring a clean environment.
The proposed W2E Plant will process 325 tonnes of waste per day and generate 78 000 to 110 000 litres of biodiesel per day, 6 000 cubic metres of biogas, as well as 11,35 Megawatts (MW) of electricity.
The technological assessment also recommended an operational model that has a phased approach production of organic compost from the 20 percent organic waste generated.
The granting of national project status is expected to speed up the implementation of the project which comes at a critical moment when the country is contending with fuel and power shortages.
Pragma Leaf Consulting chairman Mr Graciano Takawira yesterday confirmed the granting of the national project status to the company.
He said the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the project timelines, especially the completion of the Front-End Engineering Design study (FEED), which includes updating of the characterisation of the city waste and completion of the environmental impact assessment (EIA). “We want to convert municipal waste into diesel, biogas and electricity and on the funding front, the investment structuring for the project is on course. Our project investment consultant indicated that there had been significant progress made on that front. Since the project was granted national status it will enhance in terms of importing equipment,” said Mr Takawira.
Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube said the granting of national project status is recognition of the project as being of national interest and due to its great economic impact council.
“Once it is complete and up and running, this project will be the first of its kind in the country. It will have a great economic impact, not only on Bulawayo, but on the entire country through import substitutions as well as the introduction of new and innovative technologies,” he said.
Mr Dube said the project will create employment for locals, particularly in the area of refuse collection.
“This is a good project especially when it comes to solid waste management. It will bring in a lot of employment and technology. The company will also come in handy in terms of assisting council in modern management of refuse collection because they are promising to bring refuse compactors into the system,” he said.
Mr Dube said council is struggling to collect refuse and has been forced to reduce the number of days for collecting refuse from one per week to once per fortnight.
Although the project has suffered a number of false starts in previous years despite the company having already purchased land for setting up the plant in December 2014, Pragma Leaf Consulting said the renewable investment project was “on course towards being operational with progress being made on several fronts” following the ironing out of sticking issues.
The Bulawayo waste-to-energy project was initiated through the support of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) in 2012.
There are significant challenges in developing waste to energy projects in countries with little or no organised waste collection. This is compounded by a scarcity of finance.
To date, only one waste to energy developer of note has successfully constructed and started operating a major waste-fed power project in Africa – the Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP)’s Reppie Waste Power Plant in Addis Ababa.
Developed by Cambridge Industries and commissioned in 2018, the US$120 million facility is designed to convert 1 400 tonnes of waste per day from the Koshe landfill site in south-east Addis Ababa into 185 GWh of electricity per year.
The Reppie waste-to-energy facility is the first waste to energy facility in Africa. It was constructed by China National Electric Engineering Company but fully financed by the Ethiopian government. The Bulawayo waste-to-energy project has the potential for positive social, economic and environmental impact on the city of Bulawayo and surroundings. It is hoped the investment will generate jobs, promote the diversification of energy, as well as promote health and wellbeing among others.
The investment would also assist in the rehabilitation of old landfills and promotion of regeneration projects on the previously unusable sites, production of renewable energy in the form of bio-fuels (biodiesel, biogas and electricity) for domestic and international markets. Other benefits include savings through import substitution and blending processes.
The contractor also said it has an agreement with the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) to train renewable energy engineers who will service the plant for its 25-year life. The waste-to-energy model is credited for enhancing modernisation of the waste management system in cities with huge environmental benefits that include a reduction in Greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere from untreated waste.
The investment will be done in phases with stage one focused on civil engineering works on the project site including the waste reception, sorting and recycling facilities.
It is anticipated that as soon as the FEED study is completed, phase one, which involves construction, commissioning of the plastics to fuel (PTF) sector, will commence. Phase two will be the bio-fuels and gas production while phase three will be electricity generation. It is expected that three years into the plant operation the waste to power (WTP) section producing up to 20MW power will be completed.
Due to its strong business case, there is great interest by both local and international investors and the project developers are confident this project will bring much needed capital injection into the Bulawayo economy.
Garbage collectors making a living out of a Ngozi Mine dumpsite in Bulawayo said they were not aware of the project. They, however, welcomed the project, saying they are being short-changed by middlemen who buy recyclable material from them for resale in Harare.
Mr Nkosana Sibanda of Cowdray Park, who has been in the business of scavenging for recyclable material at Ngozi Mine for 20 years said: “We believe this new project will create employment for us who have been in this trade for years. We labour for several hours but get peanuts in return as middlemen buy the material at low prices per kg and then sell at high profits.”
Mr Fiso Khumalo said a local company, National Waste Collection company buys 1 000 kilogrammes of plastic for $1 000. Most informal recycling traders have permanently settled at the landfill. — @mashnets