Climate Story Jeffrey Gogo
Emerging energy firm Tawanda Energy Ltd has agreed a deal with Egyptian financier and project developer MAFGAIB for the construction of a $140 million plant that converts waste to energy.
The deal is still at feasibility stage, but once complete, aims to turn up to 800 tonnes of municipal rubbish, including human faeces and food waste, to 150 000 litres of bio-diesel, and to between 30 to 40 megawatts of electricity each day, officials say.
MAFGAIB, short for Misr Africa For Growth And Innovation Business, is an Egyptian company founded in 2011 by Tarek Ibrahim, a retired fighter pilot with the Egyptian Air Force, to provide cutting edge technology for project development across economic sectors, project finance and what it calls “commercial marketing”.
The company’s website gives little away by way of prior experience managing waste to energy projects at the scale proposed for its Zimbabwean operation — or any multi-million-dollar energy project at all. And if first impressions matter in business, then the presentation on MAGFAIB’s website, particularly the English grammar, leaves a lot to be desired.
But Ibrahim, founder and president, is projected as possessing the requisite skill for the job at hand. He is said to have “worked as regional representative, project developer and key creator . . . creating strategic vision and proposals to attract foreign investments in billions into selected industrial zone close to the Suez Canal with an international team…”
“We are glad to announce that we have secured funding for another waste to energy project in Zimbabwe . . . ” Tawanda Chitiyo, managining director Tawanda Energy Ltd, the Mutare-based nascent energy company named after himself, told The Herald Business.
“The project will use advanced technology for dealing with and convert 600-800 tonnes of municipal solid waste daily to different types of energy and products, based on the requirements of the markethe, “ said Chitiyo, by email.
Tawanda Energy Ltd specialises in “energy, biofuels, petrochemicals, and . . . community scale bio-refineries.”
The company is to build a $10 million bio-refinery in Mutare to produce about 3MW of electricity, 9,1 million litres of bio-diesel and 800 tonnes of natural gas from human excreta, in partnership with the Harare Institute of Technology’s Climate Change Research Centre and Astra Innovations, a German technological firm.
Urbanisation, general economic decay and poor service delivery by municipalities mean that cities in Zimbabwe are confronted by two problems — garbage accumulation and rising electricity demand.
According to a 2016 World Bank report, Zimbabweans in towns and cities produce an average 2 356 tonnes of garbage everyday or 859 940 tonnes per year — enough waste to fill the entire surface area of seven football pitches.
By 2025, this figure will more than double to 5 277 tonnes daily, as urbanisation and economic development grow steadily.
Over 7,5 million people will be staying in towns and cities here within the next seven years, compared to the current 4,4 million, the World Bank says.
Much of the waste is collected, rather meant to be collected and disposed in landfills, dumpsites or recycled.
But only 52 percent of the waste – a major source of climate changing methane gas — is ever collected and disposed properly by municipalities, according to a 2014 report by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).
The rest is either burnt, buried underground or dumped illegally, says the environment regulator, which put Zimbabwe’s urban solid waste at 614 000 tonnes per year, 28 percent below the World Bank’s estimates. It is crucial to realise that the whole process produces greenhouse gases at every stage — from the carbon generated by vehicles collecting garbage to the methane generated at landfills and dumpsites
Now, in the absence of improved solid waste management plans, there is a realistic risk that this will likely push Zimbabwe’s annual emissions of 417 gigatonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, higher.
In 2000, the waste sector accounted for 16 percent of national methane emissions, Government data shows.
Tarek Ibrahim, president of MAFGAIB, says his waste to energy plant here will reduce greenhouse gases emissions by 219 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year — and help create between 240 to 300 jobs directly while tackling key UN targets around sustainable energy and cleaner cities..
Electricity generated will be sold to state power utility ZESA at US14 cents per kilowatt hour — about 30 percent below what ZESA is paying South Africa’s Eskom — and bio-diesel at US70 cents per litre, he said.
“The private sector in Zimbabwe . . . plays a pivotal role in improving the waste management process, which we would like to indicate as a process right from waste management to resource management with the use of modern technology convert the waste to different types of products,” says Ibrahim in a strategy paper on the proposed project.
The self-powered plant makes use of a technology called plasma gasification, using alternating current and not direct current, to “improve efficiency, productivity and lifespan, while reducing the instability, loss of power, operation and maintenance costs,” he said. Other plants simply burn waste material to produce power.
Feedstock includes a range of rubbish – from toxic medical waste to used car tyres, human faeces to wood and plastic remains, MAFGAIB says.
To do that, however, Ibrahim and his local partner, Chitiyo of Tawanda Energy Ltd, will have to get some things right first. That includes feasibility studies — a dozen of them — estimated at $3 million, to examine issues related to the market, technical feasibility, environmental issues, transportation of waste, and others.
After that, project finance mobilisation of the $140 million begins because MAGFAIB does not have the actual money itself, it relies on its networks for that. Then design, manufacturing and construction of the facility starts.
Tarek Ibrahim hopes to manage the waste plant in a public private partnership deal over 20 years — or privately altogether — but, at 22 percent per year, the rate of interest on the loan might be a huge put off to many. The interest exceeds the global average for loans of like structure by far.
“After preparation of the studies, the results will be presented to the local/principal investor and the Government of Zimbabwe through a formal conference, with intentions to encourage a high level of interest and help the Government to make their choice after that if they will prefer the project to be established as a private sector or as Public Private Partnership . . . ” said Ibrahim.
Environmental Management Agency spokesperson Steady Kangata told The Herald Business the waste plant project had yet been brought to the regulator’s attention – typical of projects at incepetion stage – but “we encourage such arrangements that allow us to tap into waste energy”.
God is faithful.