Bioenergy modelling for Southern Africa - benchmarking Namibia and South Africa

  • Dagmar Honsbein

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy


Namibia and South Africa as part of Southern Africa are focussing on new technologies which on the one hand have the capacity to address energy shortages, particularly to increase power generation capacity; and on the other hand fulfil socio-economic development goals with minimal negative environmental impact. Bio-oil as a product from fast pyrolysis lends itself towards bioenergy production; to serve as a liquid fuel both for heat production and/or to fuel stationary engines or power generating equipment. Fast pyrolysis is a relatively new technology globally; and not yet introduced to Southern Africa. This research therefore describes bioenergy production via fast pyrolysis systems. The potential of the bioenergy so produced is investigated in terms of its potential to fill energy gaps, particularly power, as well as to fulfil socio-economic and environmental conservation targets in Namibia and South Africa.

Namibia and South Africa possess vast wood-based biomass resources which can be converted to bioenergy via fast pyrolysis. This research models the wood-based biomass resources available for bioenergy production in Namibia and South Africa respectively; describes their physical and chemical properties and provides information on where they are located within, and how they can be harvested in a sustainable manner in Namibia and South Africa.

The analysis to introduce fast pyrolysis into the Namibia and South Africa is based on an in-depth review of past experiences with pyrolysis technologies and the types of products successfully sold from various pyrolysis operations. The results of biomass modelling and description are used to model a bioenergy production system via fast pyrolysis.

In Namibia fast pyrolysis operations are focusing on power generation in the Otjiwarongo and Okakarara farmland area, with a capacity of up to 20MW over a 20-year period. The power so generated is based on wood from bush encroachment only. In South Africa, the wood-based resource, i.e. alien plant species and bush encroachment, could provide communities in three provinces with at least 1MW but not more than 5MW power respectively over a period of at least 20 years. However, the introduction of new technologies and their products, such as fast pyrolysis and bio-oil for bioenergy production to Namibian and South African markets would be cumbersome. Technical and non-technical as well regulatory barriers have been identified; these need to be overcome before fast pyrolysis is accepted in the market.
Date of Award24 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorTony Bridgwater (Supervisor)


  • fast pyrolysis
  • slow pyrolysis
  • bio-oil
  • bush encroachment
  • alien plant species

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