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Omolola Akinyemi

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  • 4th August, 2023


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      The Feasibility of Biofuels Production in the Nigerian Industry

      The Feasibility of Biofuels Production in the Nigerian Industry

      The availability of crude oil has caused an over-reliance that has made it easy to overlook other possibilities. Better energy management might have seen the country take better advantage of its other renewable sources, such as solar and wind, which are abundant within the country. Another is biofuels, whose production could impact Nigeria's energy and agricultural industries significantly.  

      The removal of petrol subsidies, skyrocketing energy prices, periodic scarcity of fuel, and general inflation have harmed the economy. The outsized impact of petrol on the country’s economy is caused by an over-reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source. These should be enough reasons to push for reforms in the energy sector.  

      Most biofuel feedstock will come from the agricultural sector. Hence, attention will need to be given to agriculture if biofuels become a part of the mix. There must be synergy between both sectors.  

      A Quick Expose 

      Biofuels are fuels produced from the rapid processing of biomass, as opposed to the natural but slow decay into fossil fuels. Biomass is any organic material which can be used to produce fuel. Such fuel, according to ReEnergy Holdings, is considered a renewable and sustainable energy, suitable for producing electricity (and other forms of power). In Nigeria, examples of biomass include wood from trees; grasses, weeds and shrubs; food crops; agricultural raw materials; human waste; animal waste; biodegradable household and municipal waste, and industrial waste.  

      These sources are referred to as biomass feedstock while they are being processed into fuel. Biofuels have been commonly applied in areas like heat production, cooking, transportation and electricity. They could be in solid, liquid or gaseous form; and are usually produced through thermal, chemical or biochemical processes. Types of biofuels commonly produced worldwide include bio-oil, biodiesel, bioethanol, biohydrogen, biogas, and syngas. 

      Biofuels have been identified as possibly significant alternatives to fossil fuels, as they significantly emit less carbon emissions. Per Statista, about 1.75 million barrels of biofuel oils per day were produced globally in 2021. The United States is the largest producer of biofuels in the world. In 2021 alone, the USA produced 1,436 petajoules of biofuel - accounting for about 41% of the world’s biofuel production.  

      The State of Biofuels Production in Nigeria 

      In July 2007, a Biofuels Policy and Incentives document was drafted by the Nigerian government. The aim is to achieve the following: 

      • Adequately exploit the country’s abundant biomass resources to meet energy needs; 
      • Reduce the undesirable global effects of greenhouse gases released from fossil fuels;
      • Subsequently cut down the volume of fossil fuels produced and used in the country; 
      • Create a commercially viable sector that would make sustainable jobs available;
      • Effectively integrate the agricultural and petroleum (energy) sectors. 

      Additionally, Nigeria is one of the signatories to both the defunct Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and 2016. Both address the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. The aim is to limit global warming by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. Therefore, the country should be more interested in non-fossil fuel forms of energy.

      The biofuels policy document targets the production of biodiesel and ethanol. These would be alternative energy sources for automotive, thermal and power generation, locally and for foreign export. Farmers will generate more revenue from producing and selling biomass feedstocks, and it would encourage greater industrialization of the rural areas where these biomass sources are produced.  

      The policy also identified those crops deemed suitable as biomass feedstocks. They include oil palm, jatropha, cassava, sugar cane, cellulose-based materials and other crops approved by the Biofuel Energy Commission (BEC). Finally, the policy emphasized inter-agency collaboration, specifically between the Biofuels Energy Commission and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).  

      Challenges facing biofuels production  

      To prevent strain on food supply, lignocellulosic sources (tree stems and roots) are the predominant biomass feedstock. These are abundant in Nigeria, especially in the forest and swampy regions of Nigeria. They are also easy to grow on poor and marginal lands. Most of the equally useful agricultural residues - produced during crop harvesting and processing - come mainly from the savannah regions.  

      One big challenge, however, is the heavy dependency of many Nigerians on charcoal and firewood obtained from felled trees. In fact, as of 2015, Nigeria was classified among the top 5 charcoal exporting countries. Also, Nigeria is estimated to consume about 43 million tonnes of firewood annually. Tree-based biomass that can be processed into finished biofuels may end up as firewood. 

      Between 32 and 42 million tons of solid waste are produced in Nigeria every year. Waste disposal and management, especially in Nigerian cities, has become a major problem. Only 54.5% of waste is collected and only about 18.8% is managed in controlled facilities. Waste can only be turned into biofuel feedstock when it's properly collected and managed. 

      There is a notable absence of feedback and information as regards the progress of the biofuels policy in its implementation. In 2021, NNPC conducted a feasibility study on the possibility of ethanol and biodiesel production. Its primary focus was on using major Nigerian staple crops such as cassava, sugarcane and palm oil as feedstock. Discussions with prospective investors also took place. Ultimately, about 20 bioethanol factories were set up, and 14 other related projects were planned to take off thereafter. However, there is very little information about the continued operations of the biofuel factories. 

      Two final issues constitute further challenges. The state of insecurity in the country; the destruction of farmlands and killings by Fulani herders in recent times has adversely affected food supply and sustainability. The unpleasant development also affected the possible or continued production of possible food crops for utility as biofuels. Some existing crops were identified as priority crops for local consumption and exports. The need for consumption of these crops surpasses that of biofuel production. Such crops include rice, cassava, sorghum, cowpeas, cashew, oil palm, ginger, sesame, cocoa, and cotton.  

      Recommendations 

      Biofuels are a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels. There are concerns about how much biofuels can be conveniently produced from plant sources without tampering with food availability. Nevertheless, biofuel sources are numerous enough within the nation to segregate food crops from them as untouchable. That is if the Nigerian government and capable investors focus adequately on biofuel research and production.  

      Biofuel production in Nigeria is overdue, given the country’s biomass resources. Additionally, biofuels have been successfully added to fossil fuel mixtures through blending in countries such as the USA, Germany, and Brazil without any adverse effects. 

      For biofuel production in Nigeria to succeed, a serious and determined return to the Biofuels Policy is needed, along with a review. Additionally, the progress made, and pitfalls encountered with existing biofuel projects must be investigated and documented with alacrity. 

      It is also necessary for all stakeholders in Nigeria’s downstream petroleum, agricultural and renewable energy sectors to meet and harmonize their policies. The interoperability of the relevant sectors and agencies along with their policies is crucial. The aim is ultimately to make biofuel production and other renewable energy initiatives work more effectively. This will contribute to protecting the environment, and the global climate, as well as increase energy availability and affordability for Nigerians as a whole.  

      • Published: 4th August, 2023


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      Comments

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      Cassie
      5 months ago

      This is good thesis of biofuel, I can use this for climate change. 10kiu


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