Oil & Gas
Ethiopia’s waste-to-energy success points way for West-African nations
by STEPHEN ONYEKWELU
May 30, 2018 | 12:45 am| | | Start Conversation
Waste management, that is, the collection, processing and disposal of solid waste is one of the biggest challenges facing many African countries; Ethiopia is showing how this can be transformed into asset.
Waste-to-energy uses trash as a fuel for power generation. Similar to other power plants (just using trash rather than other fuels like coal, oil, or natural gas), the fuel is burned in an environmentally sustainable manner, in a combustion chamber to heat tubes of water in boiler walls. The water is heated until it turns into steam, which is then used to drive a turbine generator that produces electricity.
Prior to the launch of the Reppie Facility in Addis Ababa, the Koshe dump site was the only landfill in Addis Ababa. As the city grew, so did Koshe, until it was the size of 36 football pitches. Thousands of people scavenged the dump site, often in dangerous conditions.
In 2017, tragedy struck when a landslide killed 114 people. By burning waste the new factory should make Koshe safer for everyone.
Ethiopia’s new Reppie Facility will burn over 1, 400 tons of waste a day to power 25 percent of Addis Ababa’s homes, and provide electricity to over 3 million people, while creating hundreds of jobs.
Three million bricks will be made from ash produced by the facility and 30 million litres of water will be recovered from the trash. Its owners say converting the city’s carbondioxide is the equivalent of planting 900, 000 trees a year. The factory’s creator is Samuel Alemayehu, one of the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Group of Young Global Leaders. This plant is Africa’s first.
“The Reppie project is just one component of Ethiopia’s broader strategy to address pollution and embrace renewable energy across all sectors of the economy,” said Zerubabel Getachew, Ethiopia’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations in Nairobi. “We hope that Reppie will serve as a model for other countries in the region, and around the world.”
In a recent report, the World Bank estimated that around the world, waste generation rates are rising. In 2012, the worlds’ cities generated 1.3 billion tonnes of solid waste per year, amounting to a footprint of 1.2 kilograms per person per day. With rapid population growth and urbanisation, municipal waste generation is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025. This is could be converted into an enormous source of power in developing countries.
In Liberia, the World Bank has committed $10.5 million to improve waste collection and construct a new sanitary landfill and transfer stations.
In Burkina Faso, the Bretton Woods institution has supported the solid waste sector with over $67 million in loans since 2005, supporting waste sector planning and construction of two landfills. The capital city, Ouagdougou, now collects an average of 78 percent of waste generated, which is significantly higher than the 46 percent average in Sub-Saharan Africa. This could go a step further, as the Reppie Facility in Addis Ababa has shown.
Meanwhile, in Lagos over 20 million inhabitants generate 13, 000 metric tonnes daily according to Lagos State Waste Management Authority, (LAWMA). Studies have shown that burning waste at dumpsites produces air toxins.
Typically, burning occurs at low temperatures (250 to 700 Celsius) in oxygen-starved conditions. Hydrocarbons, chlorinated materials and pesticide compounds under these conditions produce a wide range of toxic gases harmful to the environment and public health. This currently constitutes environmental nuisance, yet holds opportunity to generating significant energy.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that environmental exposure contributes to 19 percent of the incidence of cancer worldwide.
Ethiopia’s waste-to-energy project was developed by British firm, Cambridge Industries Limited and the China Electrical Engineering Company (CNEEC). It will prevent the emission of 46,494 tons of greenhouse gases, every year and points the way to other African nations.
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