Last month a team from the United States traveled to Dumpong, a small village near Aburi, to work with the cooperative to build a small processor to convert locally grown and extracted palm kernel oil into biodiesel. The production costs of the biodiesel are approximately 25% less than the current price for diesel fuel.
By working with community based palm oil processors and with local labor the project brings additional income and quality of life improvements to the nearby villages (slideshow).
Transport fuels and electricity are important for local development, but both resources are scarce and expensive. Local biofuel production allows the community to overcome two problems: the cost of imported petroleum fuels, and their irregular supplies. For the first time, villagers can pump water from a well and purify it, instead of gathering it from dirty streams (slideshow). The biodiesel powered pump saves women (and children) time and the clean water reduces the risk of disease. A local entrepreneur uses electricity from a biodiesel powered generator to package potable water in plastic sachets (photo, click to enlarge), a product he sells on the market (slideshow).
Jerry Robock, team leader from the U.S. who helped the cooperative, says the biodiesel is obtained by very basic equipment via transesterification. Glycerine is a byproduct from the process that can be utilized locally to make soap. The pilot project cost between US$ 600 and 1000 and can be replicated in many other rural communities and similar villages.
The small biodiesel processor was built on the farm of Frank Aidoo, president of the Dumpong Pineapple Growers. The processor comprises two 200 liter steel drums welded together with an electric heating element screwed through one opening. Additional piping and a small electric pump were added to pump palm kernel oil and a solution of methanol with potassium hydroxide into the processor, then circulate the mixture and finally pump the biodiesel into a washing tank:
energy :: sustainability :: biomass :: bioenergy :: biofuels :: palm kernel oil :: biodiesel :: community development :: rural development :: decentralisation :: Ghana ::
The processor was built over two days and production began immediately. Over the next three days 550 liters of golden biodiesel was produced which has already been used to power a generator and to fuel the farm’s vehicles.
After the palm oil is processed into biodiesel it is washed to remove any impurities or unconverted reagents. It is then ready to be used as a substitute for diesel fuel. Due to the solvency quality of biodiesel it must initially be blended with diesel fuel as it works to clean the fuel system of the vehicle. Fuel filters will need to be changed at the start but biodiesel will actually clean the fuel system to make the vehicle perform more efficiently. Biodiesel can be mixed with diesel fuel in any proportion and there is no modification to the engine to use this fuel.
Some biodiesel will be used to power a generator that currently pumps water for a small sachet water (bottling) plant that provides clean drinking water. Frank plans to use this new fuel source to allow him to pump water to a storage tank in the nearby village to eliminate the current practice of sourcing water from a nearby stream.
The palm kernel oil is sourced from a neighboring village where palm kernel nuts are cracked to extract the palm nut. The palm nut is then crushed and boiled over a fire of palm kernel husks to separate the palm oil, which is then gathered and stored. The palm oil used for biodiesel is not further refined.
Dumpong Biofuels strategy is to take advantage of locally available oilseed crops, to included jatropha and sunflower seed, to convert into an environmentally renewable and sustainable fuel to be used locally to replace imported and dirty diesel fuel.
Images courtesy of Dumpong Biofuels.
Dumpong Biofuels homepage.
Dumpong biofuels: original project proposal [*.pdf].
Dumpong Biofuels: photo galleries.