/ 21 March 2007

Durban launches rubbish-dump power plant

Africa's first power plant to run on methane gas extracted from a rubbish dump began generating electricity in Durban on Tuesday. The plant, built with funding from the French Development Bank, was officially opened by eThekwini mayor Obed Mlaba at the city's Mariannhill landfill site.

Africa’s first power plant to run on methane gas extracted from a rubbish dump began generating electricity in Durban on Tuesday.

The plant, built with funding from the French Development Bank, was officially opened by eThekwini mayor Obed Mlaba at the city’s Mariannhill landfill site.

The plant is the first of three that the city expects to have completed by the end of 2007 and should earn the city over R400-million from selling electricity to the national grid as well as selling carbon credits.

City manager Mike Sutcliffe said: ”Part of this is about taking advantage of the Kyoto Protocol, which allows for carbon trading. Without this, projects like ours would not be financially viable.”

A series of wells have been sunk in the landfill site to extract the methane gas that comes from the decomposing refuse. A series of interlinking pipes from the wells channels the gas to the plant where the methane is burnt. During the burning process, electricity is generated.

The Mariannhill plant is expected to generate 1 000 kilowatts of electricity.

Two other plants — one at the La Mercy landfill site and another at the Bisasar Road landfill site — are expected to come on stream later in the year. All three plants will produce between 8 000 and 10 000 kilowatts of electricity.

Project manager Lindsay Strachan said: ”This project alone will reduce the burning of coal by some 80 000 tonnes a year.”

Durban’s current electricity use is equivalent to 2 000 tons of coal being burnt every hour, or more than 70-million tonnes every year. South Africa is the 14th-highest producer of greenhouse-gas emissions in the world.

The project, which took five years to complete, was funded with a R58,7-million loan from the French Development Bank, and made use of research by the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

”Hopefully it will fulfil all that we want it to produce,” said Mlaba.

Strachan said the mayor of Maputo has shown an interest in the project, and Mlaba told guests that he would like to see such self-sustainable and environmentally friendly projects being developed across Africa. — Sapa