Renewable energy is energy that is derived from renewable sources such as agricultural products, wind, sun, wastes etc. The generic name for some renewable energy sourced from raw material or waste products is Bio fuel

Types of Renewable Energy

Some of the renewable energies are: Bio fuel, wind, solar, geothermal power, biogas etc.  The most popular types of Bio fuel today are Ethanol, Bio diesel and Biomass.


Bio diesel: It is the fuel derived from palm oil, vegetable oil, groundnut oil, canola oil and several other types of oil.  It can be blended with regular diesel or used 100 percent on any vehicle or diesel engines.


Bio mass: It is the energy obtained from biological materials and sources such as trees, grasses, plants etc.  It can be used in form of solid, liquid or gaseous.  Organic wastes from municipalities and industries can be used to produce biomass.


Ethanol: It is produced from starchy food crops such as cassava, corn and high sugar content plants like sugarcane and sugar beets.  The most popular mixture of ethanol is 10-20 percent with regular fuel.


The Need for Renewable Energy

The global clamour for Renewable Energy is based on two strategic issues:

1. Global Warming

2. Increase in the price of crude oil occasioned by diminishing sources and high demand.


Global Warming:  It is the increase of the average world temperature as a result of what is known as the green house effect.  The principle of the greenhouse effect simply means that certain gases in the atmosphere act like glass in a greenhouse, allowing sunlight through to heat the earth’s surface but trapping the heat as it radiates back into space.  The earth then gets hotter as the greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere.


Carbon dioxide (Co2) contributes over 50 percent to the greenhouse effect.  The other gases that exacerbate the greenhouse situation are: methane, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nitrous oxide (N2O). (The Kyoto protocol of 1997 which requires countries to cut their Co2 emissions is now rectified by 181 countries including the EU).



Methane:  It is released during coal-mining activities, oil exploration and by burning the vegetation during land clearing.


Nitrous Oxide:  It comes from both man-made and natural causes.  Man-made sources contribute about 45 percent and they come from fossil fuel combustion, power stations, use of nitrogenous fertilizers, burning of human and animal wastes etc. The gas contributes about 6 percent to the greenhouse effect.


Chlorofluorocarbons: They are found in fridges, air conditioners, aerosols etc. and are very dangerous greenhouse gases.  Though their concentration in the atmosphere is relatively lower than Co2 but they trap more heat.  A molecule of CFC is 10,000 times more effective in trapping heat than Co2 molecule while that of methane is about 30 times more effective.  Methane molecules survive for 10 years in the atmosphere and CFC for 110 years and this is why the Montreal Protocol of 1989 proscribed it from usage.


Carbon Dioxide:  It is the major cause of the greenhouse effect and contributes over 50 percent of the gas.  The concentration of Co2 in the atmosphere has increased by over 25 percent since the industrial revolution and half of this has been within the last 30 years.  It is expected to double within the next decade if it is not slowed down.  The major sources of Co2 are the use of fossil fuel in automobiles, industries, ships, machines etc.


The average European is responsible for nearly ten times as much atmospheric carbon as his counterparts in Africa and South America while the American is responsible for more than 20 times.  China, Japan and the “Asian Tigers’ are also contributing as their industrial activities increase. America has over 250 million cars on her roads and these contribute enormously to the Co2 emission.  China has about 50 million cars and her emission of Co2 from fossil fuel is also getting very high.


The United States of America is making very conscious and determined efforts to minimize the use of fossils fuels that emit Co2 to the atmosphere.  For instance, the State of California and 20 other states have banned the use of methyl/tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) an oxygenate that emits Co2 and contaminates drinking water.



The Effect of Global Warming

If the world does not take drastic steps to stop or slowdown Global Warming, the average global temperatures will rise by 1.5-4.5 degrees Celsius by 2030.  The rise will be greater towards the poles and less at the tropics and the warming will also be more in the winter than in the summer.  These temperature increases will make the world hotter than it has been for more than 100,000 years.  We should note that the ten hottest years since the 1860’s have been in the last 15 years.


Storms: Storms, hurricanes and floods will become more frequent and stronger as oceans heat up causing more water to evaporate. Evidence is building up at an alarming rate.  The hurricane that devastated New Orleans, U.S.A. a few years ago was unprecedented.  Also the hurricane Tsunami that happened in Indonesia was a bitter experience to the whole world.  The world rallied round to help the victims.  Even the Typhoon Murielle that happened in Japan in 1991, was their worst for 30 years.  China, U.S.A and several other countries have experienced unusual flooding and storms that destroyed lives and property.  Our own Lagos Bar Beach has over the years stormed and flooded the neighbourhood, blocking roads, pulling down fences and destroying structures.


Droughts:  Continental heartlands will dry out more in summer and dry seasons.  Desert encroachment will accelerate at a faster pace and inland lakes like lake Chad and others will experience more drought and rapid lose of water.  Global warming will effect the intensity of rainfall and thereby agriculture and food production.  The raging global food shortage may not be unconnected with global warming.


Floods:  Sea levels are rising at the rate of 1-2 mm per year due to the expansion of the top layer of the ocean and the melting of the polar ice caps.  This causes increased flooding in costal areas and river estuaries. The phenomenon has also increased the incidence of costal and inland erosion.


Global warming can be slowed down by using less fossil fuel and eliminating CFCs altogether.  Emphasis must be on Co2 because it is the major cause of global warming. Renewable energy that does not emit Co2 must be encouraged.  A United Nations panel indicated that we need to reduce global fossil fuel use by 60 percent immediately to stabilise the climate.  There is no silver bullet solution to this quagmire.


The world needs all the alternatives to fossil fuel it can find, especially those that are safe, renewable and sustainable.  There may be no single solution to fossil oil dependency, rather it would be a collection of strategies that will make up the energy of the future, ethanol, bio diesel, wind, solar, geothermal power, biogas etc.


Increase in the Price of Crude Oil occasioned by high demand, low supply and diminishing sources

Fossil fuel is the main source of energy globally.  It is used in driving cars, buses, Lorries, trucks, ships, trains, machines and different types of engines, tractors, planes and other moveable equipment.  The source of all fossil fuels is crude oil.


Increasing Price of Crude Oil

The price of crude oil hit an all time high of $140 per barrel in August 2008 from $120 per barrel in August 2001.  Experts are predicting that further rise in the future is inevitable because of the realities associated with the crude oil industry.


Demand for Crude oil

The demand for crude oil is about 85 million barrels per day and the major consumers are:  USA (24%), Europe and Japan (27%), China (9%), Asia excluding China and Japan (10%), Russia and Eastern Europe (6%), the rest of the world (24%).  Demand grew by 3% in 2004, 2% in 2005%, 1% in 2006 and 0.9% in 2007.


Demand in Europe has decreased by 2.3%, Japan 3.6% but increased in China by 5.2%, Asia 1.7%, and the rest of the world by 3.8%.  Demand in the USA was 0% in 2007 because of their Energy Independence and Security Act which addressed their foreign oil dependence and global climatic change.


Supply of Crude oil

While demand has been growing, supply has almost stalled: production increased to 84.63 million barrels per day in 2005 but has since declined to 84.598 million barrels per day in 2006 and 84.548 million barrels per day in 2007.  The two years progressive decline have made experts to fear that production may have peaked and that the world may never be able to produce much more than 85 million barrels per day.


Internal consumption is also increasing in most of the oil producing nations.  Mexico reduced its exports in April this year as internal consumption has upset increased production.  In the United Kingdom, internal growth of 2% and production decline of 3% have dried up their export and made them net importers of oil.  These situations make marketers to speculate that the quantity of oil available for trade may decline even faster than production.


The situation in Nigeria is totally different.  Our internal consumption stands at about 20 million litres per day but our combined internal refining capacity is only 445, 000 barrels per day.  We export almost all our crude oil and import almost our domestic oil needs. Our internal refining capacity must drastically improve if we are to maximize the benefits of rising crude oil price.


Diminishing Sources of Crude Oil

In the 1960s about 500 new oil fields were discovered, about 700 in the 70’s, 850 in the 80’s, 510 in the 90’s and from 2000 to date less than 100 oil fields have been discovered.


These disturbing data have compelled oil experts and marketers to predict that the sources of crude oil may be diminishing and therefore tarnishing the supply and driving up the price. The present down-turn in price is as a result of the global recession and not increase in production.



These facts coupled with the dangers of global warming have compelled nations all over the world to search for alternative energy that is safe, renewable and sustainable. Ethanol is increasingly being viewed as the product of choice in any strategy for energy independence, stability and climate change mitigation. It is formed by the fermentation of sugars from a number of types of organic materials such as cassava, corn, sugarcane etc  The UN ambitious goal of replacing 30% of 2004 gasoline demand by renewable fuels by 2030 to ameliorate global warming, depend on massive production and usage of ethanol

Types of Ethanol:  There are two major types of ethanol:  (1) Denatured ethanol and (2) Hydrous ethanol.  Denatured ethanol is mixed with 2-5 low cost of hydrocarbon that makes it unfit for human consumption.  Most producers use natural gasoline derived from natural gas or reffinate to denature it.  Hydrous ethanol is those used in the production of alcoholic beverages, cosmetics, perfumes, drinks and industrial uses.  Denatured ethanol is the one used in blending gasoline.


Raw Materials or feedstock for Ethanol:  Any starchy material that can be converted into sugar can be used to produce ethanol. But for the production to be economical, stable ad sustainable, feed stock that have high starch content and that will be continuously available is required.  So far, corn, cassava and sugarcane have been adduced to be the most stable.  America uses corn while Brazil uses sugarcane.  The rest of the world have their eyes on cassava.




Production of Ethanol:  There are several systems of production such as the Dry Mill, the Wet Mill, the Wabio System, which is a recent German innovation and others.  The Dry Mill technology is used by over 82% of the American ethanol producers and it specialises in producing only ethanol and is considered to be very efficient, Wet Mill has the flexibility to produce more products and has higher investment costs.  Most of the ethanol plants produce denatured ethanol, dry and wet distillers’ products with soluble and Co2.  The Dried Distillers materials can be sold as animal feed while the Co2 is vented.  The chemicals used in ethanol production are yeast, enzymes and water.  Large quantity of water is usually required, about 3-5 litres of good quality water is required for every litre of ethanol produced.


Conventional System of Production of Ethanol:  Starches like corn or cassava are converted into ethanol in a few basic steps involving series of enzymes.  Thermo-stable a-amylase or Alfa Amylase is used in the presence of water and heat to liquefy the starch. This is followed by glucoamylase which saccharifies the liquefied starch to sugars.  A biocatalyst is then added in the form of yeast to ferment the sugars to ethanol.  This is followed by the distillation of the beer to produce pure ethanol.  The overall reaction is conversion of glucose to ethanol and carbon-dioxide (Co2).  Yeast remains the traditional micro-organism of choice for ethanol production due to its high tolerance for ethanol during fermentation.


Cassava and ethanol:  Cassava is an important economic crop cultivated in many tropical countries such as Nigeria, Brazil, Thailand, India and several African countries. Nigeria ranks as the number one producer in the world producing over 41 million metric tons per annum.  Cassava’s high energy carbohydrate-rich roots can be processed into a wide variety of products including ethanol and industrial starch.


Cassava awareness has grown nationally since the inception of the composite flour which stipulated that 5% cassava flour should be included in all wheat flour used in baking bread and confectioneries.  International awareness on cassava has also grown because of its application in producing ethanol.  Cassava has far more advantages than other products for ethanol.  It is cheaper, it contains more starch, its yield per hectare is higher and one ton of starch will yield more ethanol than others.  The cassava plant is sturdy and can survive in harsh, tropical climates even in poor soils without irrigation.


Varieties like: TMS30572, TMS4(2)1425, TME419, TMS98/0581 can mature in 9 months with very high starch contents.  Their yields per hectare is about 25-30 tones and can even go as high as 60-90 tones depending on the soil fertility.  The National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, Abia State


(ACE) is aggressively advocating for higher blends of ethanol.  So far, E10 is the blend of choice but the ACE would like an increase to E20 or higher.


The Brazilian government started to substitute ethanol for gasoline in their national passenger transportation vehicles in the 1980s.  The vehicles were designed for ethanol-based fuels and thus their compression ratios were increased to optimize thermal efficiency in ethanol combustion.  Ethanol in pure form and in higher blends with gasoline does not evaporate well at lower temperature and won’t produce a combustible mix at start up.  In 2006, Honda introduced Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFVs) to run on E20 or pure ethanol.  FFVS are vehicles that run on both ethanol and gasoline. Brazil auto makers still rely on an auxiliary fuel tank to overcome low volatility issues with alcohol fuels.  Ethanol has a vaporization temperature of about 560F.


Other advantages of ethanol

–   It is an oxygenate and octane enhancer.  It has octane of 113.

–   It is used in replacing ethyl butyl ether (MTBE) as an additive.

–   It burns cleaner than gasoline and is therefore good for the environment.

–   It displaces the use of gasoline components like benzene, a carcinogen.

–   The emission profile is superior.

–   Production of ethanol is less cumbersome and less capital intensive than



Ethanol Production in the World

The top five ethanol producers in the world are USA, Brazil, China, India and France.  Ethanol production in the USA has grown from a cottage industry in the 1980s when it produced only 175 million gallons to its present stage.  By 1990, 35 ethanol plants produced 865 million gallons.  The big leap started in 2002 when production drastically picked up. By August 2007, 124 plants were producing 6.5 billion gallons and an additional 6.4 billion capacity is under construction.


Until recently, Brazil, the lowest cost producer, was the world leader. Producing ethanol in Brazil with sugarcane cost half as much as producing it in the USA from corn.  Despite the 54 cents per gallon tariff and a 2.5% ad valorem tax, the US still imports a small amount of ethanol from Brazil.  Caribbean countries can export ethanol to the USA tariff free.  About six million gallons was exported from Jamaica and Costa Rica in 2005.


China and India rely on cassava for their ethanol production and are aggressively searching and exploring long term supply contracts in Nigeria and other African and Asian countries.  European ethanol drive is not as intensive as USA and China because of their belief that food materials should not be used as feedstock.  They tend to concentrate more on waste and biomass.


Food versus Fuel Argument:  The argument is most intense in Europe and Australia where they contend that the world need food more than fuel and as such food materials should not be used as ethanol feedstock.  The European Union (EU) would deny any company that contravenes the rule some subsidies and tariff.  America, China and most other countries insist that they need both food and fuel and that to win the war against global warming and escalating fuel price, all hands must be on deck.  They argue that energy, mobility and security are fundamental human needs that must be met.


The African position is that the use of cassava for ethanol will enable the continent be an active partner in the issues of bio fuel and global warming mitigation. Cassava would attract investments, stimulate productivity and offer the farmers the opportunity to sell it as cash crop and add value to it and their lives.  It will not jeopardise food security but will empower the people and improve their human capital by giving them the opportunities to solve their problem of poverty.  There is enough land for their agriculture to produce cassava for food and for bio fuel.  A country like Nigeria has over 28,000 hectares of arable land and only 3% is being used.  Active involvement in cassava for ethanol will enable them expand the land usage, create jobs, empower the people, produce more for food and for raw material and banish poverty.  Industry is the driving force to reduce hunger and when jobs are created, people will be out of poverty and out of hunger. The problem is poverty not hunger.


Ethanol and the United States Economy

The importation of Petroleum into American is decreasing because of the increasing availability and use of fuel ethanol.  The 400,000 barrels of ethanol produced each day in the USA in 2007 replaced the gasoline output of three average oil refineries.  The dramatic increase of ethanol production in the USA will in the coming years continues to meet the demand for motor fuel, displacing a greater volume of imported oil and relieving the pressure on the refineries.  The American Energy, Independence and Security Act of 2007 addressed American foreign oil dependence and global climatic change.  It tampered the American energy status quo and diversified is portfolio. It increased the renewable fuels standard to 9 billion gallons in 2008 and mandated a six fold increase in ethanol production.


As of August 1, 2007 the Renewable Fuels Association listed 124 ethanol bio refineries with 76 new ones to double the national capacity to 12.8 billion gallons per year.  Plants that produce 100 million gallons per year are now common and 97% of them use corn as their feedstock.


Factors that have Enhanced the Growth of Ethanol in the USA: The major factor that has driven the recent dramatic growth in ethanol production in the USA is petroleum price.  Other factors that have enhanced the growth are: low corn price, federal and state subsidies, trade barriers, renewable energy standards, the need to replace MTBE and new technologies.


Ethanol Subsidies:  Fuels blended with 10% ethanol or E10 receive tax credit of 5.1 cents per gallon and E85 43 cents per gallon.  The Volumetric Excise Tax Credit provides ethanol blenders with 52 cents per pure gallons of ethanol blended.  Local producers are protected by 54 cents per gallon tariff on imported ethanol and an ad valorem tax of 2.5% of the value of the ethanol imported. The Caribbean Basin Initiative which allows them to export ethanol to the USA also allows them to import feed stock and process them into ethanol and export to the USA as long as the total amount shipped does not exceed 70% of the US ethanol consumption.  In 2006, US consumption was about 4.86 billion gallons, about 653 million gallons were imported and 434 million gallons came from Brazil.  Sugarcane ethanol is about $0.81 per gallon compared to $1.05 per gallon of corn. Ethanol yield per bushel of corn has increased overtime as a result of more efficient processing technology.  More yields will ensure when seed genetics that produce a higher starch content of the corn grain is affected, yields could advance from 2.8 gallons per bushel to about 3.1 gallons per bushel.  The ethanol industry in the US creates over 40,000 jobs and adds over $12.6 billion in net farm income each year.


The Big Producers of Ethanol:  Archer Daniel Midland (ADM) is the largest producer of ethanol in the USA.  It has a capacity of 1.2 billion gallons and an expansion plan of 550 million gallons.  They control about 24% of American ethanol market.  The next largest player is Vera Sun Energy Corporation (VSE) and is followed by US Bio energy Corporation (USBE) which has about 4% market share.  Production of ethanol is concentrated around the states of Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota.  These are the major corn producing areas.  California used over 20% of the USA ethanol while Illinois used 14%.  Some big states like Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania have not consumed much and that suggests that the demand could grow considerably higher if the ban on MTBE becomes nationwide.  California and over 20 other states have banned the use of MTBE as an oxygenate.


As America continues to reduce its dependence on imported fuel, her capacity for ethanol production will continue to grow astronomically.


Prospects of Ethanol Production in Nigeria

The prospects of producing ethanol in Nigeria are quite high because of the abundant availability of the raw material.  Cassava, the major feedstock, is very available and we only have to import chemicals, enzymes and yeast.


Our production should however be focussed on export market because of our low internal crude oil refining capacity.  Our capacity is only 400,000 barrels per day and that can only sustain a few ethanol refining plants.  NNPC had entered into an agreement with the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, Abia State, to design a cassava based ethanol refining plant, that arrangement has slowed down since the change of management in NNPC.  The arrangement should be pursued with vigour because all PMS are now E10 and ethanol refining creates a lot of employment.


The advent of global warming and high cost of fuel energy has put ethanol on the front burner and many countries are scampering for it.  We should produce denatured ethanol of high quality and export to the world.  China, India, the Asian Tigers and even Europe and USA are requesting for our cassava to be used for ethanol production because it has higher starch content than corn and other feed stock and it is also cheaper.  Despite American’s high production capacity, it imported 653 million gallons in 2006 and 434 million gallons came from Brazil despite the 54 cents per gallon tax and 2.5% ad valorem tax.


The Caribbean Basin Initiative which allows the Caribbean countries to export ethanol to the USA tax free (and to import the feedstock from other countries) as long as the total amount shipped does not exceed 70% of the USA ethanol consumption.  Their consumption in 2006 was 4.86 billion gallons.  Nigeria can take advantage of this initiative either by liaising with friendly Caribbean countries or by seeking a multilateral tax free export agreement with USA under the auspices of ECOWAS.  A similar agreement can also be reached with China, Europe and others to diversify our cassava portfolio expand our industrial base and create jobs to dampen poverty which is our albatross.


Entrepreneurs can also establish hydrous ethanol refining outlets of food grade quality for blending of alcoholic beverages like Schnapps, Whiskey, Brandy, Rum, etc. and for cosmetic, perfumes and industrial uses.  Such an outlet must be inspected and approved by NAFDAC.  Denatured ethanol is used in blending PMS into E10 or E20 while hydrous ethanol is used as industrial raw material for beverages. All hydrous ethanol consumed in the country are presently imported and it is estimated that we spend over N500 million annually in their importation.  With our cassava, they can be produced locally.


Ethanol and the Rest of the World

Ethanol as a mitigating strategy against global warming and high cost of fuel may never be fully realised because of regional differences, ideological discrepancies, and national idiosyncrasies.  Some insist that its a political intervention while others maintain that its pursuit will deplete global food stock.  Scientist affirm that we need food and clean energy and that clean energy will be the driving force for innovation, development, security and fundamental human needs.  They further state that the ravaging menace of the greenhouse effect occasioned by global warming will be so devastating and total that the world should rise to combat it.


USA produces her ethanol with corn, Brazil with sugarcane, Asia and Africa with cassava. Europe, Australia etc. insist on wastes and biomass.  Their reservation is that the use of what they consider ‘food feedstock” would aggravate food security and throw the world into a more serious crises than the increasing fuel price and the looming global warming. They say, they need food more than fuel.  The rest of world seems to be saying that they need both: the food and the fuel because none can do without the other.  The other side lament that the acreage of land required to grow enough feedstock for ethanol would be so enormous that there would be non left to grow food for the people.  But scientists are saying that genetic studies are discovering breeds of corn and cassava that yield more tons per hectare with short gestation periods and stronger adaptation to pests and diseases. Energy is the driving force of modern civilization, it powers the tractors that ploy the fields, the machines that process the food and preserves them for longer shelf live.  It is the powerhouse of development and the central force of human expansion.  It is the hub of modern transportation and the brain box of global village that has brought humanity closer.


Africa sees cassava as an opportunity to participate in the fight against global warming and to advance its fight against poverty.  Export of cassava or ethanol would empower the people, improve their human capital and ameliorate poverty.  Cassava is a tropical root crop that grows in poor soil in the rural areas that are poverty infested. Massive importation of cassava products from Africa to Europe will empower the people more because our greatest bane is poverty.


The Wabio Ethanol Production System

A giant Belgium conglomerate is considering building in Belgium, Netherlands and France gigantic plants that would use the Wabio system to produce bio-ethanol, green electricity, heat and advanced vegetable bio-fertilizer.  The plant shall produce 130 million litres of bio-ethanol per year and it is considered to be the biggest in Europe.  It is projected to take-off in 2009.


Some of the advantages of the Wabio Concept:  It has optimum energy production because the by-products from the ethanol production are used to produce biogas instead of using them as cattle feed.


The process heat for distillation is generated by the cooling water of the gas-engines, no boiler is required.  It is a low minimum load, 2000 Kwh can power it, no moving or rotating equipments like mixers or valves inside the bio-reactors.


The gases from the exhaust combusting biogas or bio-ethanol are more friendly for the environment than those from traditional engines.


The Wabio Concept uses mostly vegetable wastes and biomass.


Ethanol Plant

We can work with you to establish your desired ethanol plant using cassava as the feed stock. We will do the study, source the equipment, the raw materials and other inputs required to actualise the project.  Contact us today.