Bagasse, bulk from logs and black liquor: Being a semi-arid country, the availability of bioenergy feedstock in South Africa is limited. However, the main sources of potential biomass utilization are wood waste (generated in the commercial forestry industry) and bagasse (generated in the sugar industry). Biomass is used commercially in the pulp and paper mills, and in sugar refineries where bulk from logs, black liquor (residue from paper production) and bagasse are burned to produce process heat and generate electricity.
The forestry sector produces a substantial amount of wood waste that is a potentially large resource for sustainable charcoal, gasification, or direct generation of power.
There is high potential for the production of biofuels from energy crops such as sugarcane, sugar beet, sunflowers and canola. However, the low energy density of these food crops makes it uneconomical to transport over long distances and hence they need to be used either close to where they are produced, or condensed for more economical transport.
South Africa disposes of almost all of its refuse in landfill sites. It has been estimated that the total domestic and industrial refuse has an energy content of about 11.000 GWh per annum. This could be directly incinerated or converted into biogas and methane to produce electricity. There have been proposals for such schemes, and several landfill sites already produce electricity, including: the Durban Landfill-Gas-to-Electricity Project, Mariannhill and La Mercy Landfills, Ekurhuleni Landfill Gas Recovery Project, New England Landfill Gas to Energy Project, Alton Landfill Gas to Electricity Project, Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Landfill, and the EnviroServ Chloorkop Landfill Gas Recovery Project.
A national Biomass Atlas is currently being prepared and should provide more detailed information on biomass potential. 51.5 MW of biomass power plants have been contracted so far and will be implemented by 2022.