Source: editorial team South Africa's first bio-diesel refinery is to be built in Isando, near Johannesburg, at an estimated cost of 83 million rand ($US9.7 million), writes Richard Hurst.

The refinery is expected to produce 60,000 tonnes of diesel fuel annually for either the local market or for export.

The managing director of Seed Oil Refinery South Africa (SORSA), Bernd Schmidt, said that commercial production will commence early in 2002 and would help decrease his country's dependence on imported crude oil.

Schmidt added that the biodiesel would comply with oncoming legislation that compels fuel companies to reduce the sulphur content in diesel to under 0.3 percent. The fuel would be 100 percent biological and its emissions would contain no sulphurous or greenhouse gases.

Schmidt said that the bio-diesel could be used in any diesel engine or burner without any adaptations and is expected to retail cheaply at around R2.50 a litre, (US$0.30), with the cost subsidised for the farming industry.

SORSA's fuel will essentially be vegetable oil methyl ether, formed by removing its triglyceride molecules. The fuel contains 10 percent oxygen and, being naturally oxygenated, its manufacture creates a by-product called oil cake which may be used in animal feed production.

SORSA hopes to be able to extend its operations with refineries planned for the Western Cape and Mpumalanga provinces.