Biofuel Engineer

Biofuel engineers work to develop and find uses for fuels derived from a plant source, so that our carbon footprint can be reduced.


Biofuel energy is a type of renewable energy that is made from organic matter. Traditionally, industrial society has been powered by fossil fuels such as gasoline and coal. However, in recent years, concerns about global warming and rising fuel costs have led to increased interest in biofuels as an alternative source of energy. Biofuel has the ability to power cars, heat homes and generate electricity without emitting carbon into the atmosphere.

Biofuels, as a complementary and alternative energy source to fossil fuels, can contribute to:


  • increasing agricultural efficiency

  • creating new job opportunities in agriculture, industry, infrastructure and science

  • the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and to improve environmental conditions for all people on our planet

  • economic independence and prosperity for southern African countries and their citizens.


South Africa produces bioethanol from sugar and starch crops, to replace petrol. Biodiesel is a naturally oxygenated fuel produced from organic feed sources such as soya beans, cooking oil and animal fats. South Africa’s biofuels strategy is mainly aimed at stimulating the production of suitable crops, such as sorghum, sugarcane, soya beans and canola, among others, in so-called “under-utilised agricultural areas” of the country, including the former homelands.

Biodiesel can also be produced from waste vegetable oil. The Green Transport Programme is currently working with various stakeholders involved in the production of biodiesel from waste vegetable oil value chain. These stakeholders include: oil users, oil collectors, biodiesel producers, biodiesel users, and the SABS for writing standards for biodiesel.

Biodiesel can be used in its pure form or blended at any ratio with petroleum diesel to achieve cost efficiency and improve cold-weather performance. It is commonly used as a blend at 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel.

Biodiesel can be used in any diesel vehicle with little or no modification. It is used extensively in parts of Europe and is rapidly gaining support in the United States.

Applications include buses, delivery trucks, waste disposal and recycling trucks, construction and farm equipment, heavy-duty freight hauling, boats, and passenger vehicles. Biodiesel can also be utilised in stationary applications, such as diesel generators and boilers.

Although the biofuel product development career path is still fairly new, it is comparable to an engineering manager who would typically have a formal background and work experience in engineering, science or mathematics. Statistics show that most engineering managers have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and that most specialise in a specific type of engineering, architecture or a related field.

Seven years after a government feasibility study showed that a biofuels industry in South Africa could create tens of thousands of new jobs, the paperwork required to establish the industry, still remains outstanding.


Employment

• government departments, e.g. Agriculture and Energy
• biofuels industry
• renewable energy companies
• universities (faculties of science and agriculture


Programmes

North-West University, Sol Plaatjies University, University of Johannesburg, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch, University of the Free State, University of the Western Cape


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