Unfortunately, more than 589 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) live without access to electricity: only 35 percent of the population in SSA has access, compared with 96 and 78 percent in East Asia Pacific and South Asia, respectively. For most Africans, electric power is inaccessible, unaffordable, or unreliable. The lack of both quality and energy services and access to modern sources of fuel—such as natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), diesel, and biofuels—traps them in a world of poverty.
This inaccessibility to modern energy in SSA touches all sectors of society—health clinics cannot refrigerate vaccines, students find it difficult to read after dark, and businesses have shorter operating hours. Even Africans with up to date energy sources face unreliable and unpredictable supplies for which they must pay high prices.
Currently, the energy sector of SSA meets neither the needs nor the aspirations of its citizens. Africa’s development challenges will become even more daunting as population growth in many SSA countries is projected to outpace electrification efforts. If current trends continue, electrification rates will grow from 35 to 51 percent, but the absolute deficit of people without electricity will also grow from its 2012 level of 589 million to over 645 million by 2030. Clearly, action is needed to accelerate electrification beyond its business-as-usual pace.
Current uses of biomass fuels in SSA present grave health, environmental, and social concerns. As a result of indoor air pollution and chronic respiratory illnesses from the use of primitive cook stoves, the World Health Organization’s estimates suggest that between 2000 and 2030, 8.1 million premature deaths will occur among children and 1.7 million premature deaths will occur among adult women in SSA.
Examples of the above conditions can be illustrated with many countries. For example, the Republic of Benin, one of the poorest countries in Western Sub-Saharan Africa, has an infant mortality rate of 1 in 5 births before the age of five. It is believed many of these deaths can be prevented if adequate waste treatment and fresh water were available. In many of these countries, the cost of building an electrical transmission, waste water and fresh water infrastructure is cost prohibitive. Sub Saharan Africa does not have an existing infrastructure to service the electrical, waste treatment and fresh water needs of its population. The future for these countries is the adoption of localized and distributed electrical power production as well as waste treatment and fresh water generation. The eRET can fill this gap since the above illustration shows the various applications of its technology. In addition, the eRET has the capability of using its RF emission so that broadband and other communications are possible.
Other countries such as Nepal, where burning of wood and cow dung is prevalent can substitute these fuels for renewable electricity and hydrogen in order to satisfy cooking and heating needs.
Climate change has provoked our traditional attitudes toward these basic commodities. The eRET will smooth the way for that transition to a carbon free world.
The generation of municipal solid waste in the United States in 2001 has been estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency to be about 229 million tons. Three large categories are paper, 81.9 million tons, plastics, 25.4 million tons and wood at 13.2 million tons. For example, utilizing RET technology at an overall efficiency of 70%, the amount of hydrogen that can be produced from plastic is approximately 5.53 billion kilograms or 7.76 billion kilograms of hydrogen produced from paper.
This technology is suitable to accept ALL forms of combustible biomass. The integrated system would accept any form of biomass feedstock or residue in a combustion unit. The heat generated from combustion would heat water to steam, which would in turn be used to generate electricity through a steam turbine. The waste steam from the turbine would be cracked using RET technology to hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen generated can be used as a fuel or combined with the exhaust CO2 from the combustion unit and a catalyst to produce a variety of chemicals such as methane or alcohol. Thus, CO2 is efficiently converted into a highly valued product. The integrated system is highly scalable for different energy or chemical needs. Production of hydrogen or chemicals is limited only by the amount of biomass consumed. The only byproduct of the technology is a small amount of ash that can be used as fertilizer. This technology can be applied in a centralized configuration for several farms or as an individual small generator for a single farm. The system has only one moving part and maintenance can be handled easily.
We believe our technology answers a broad range of economic and environmental concerns regarding biomass waste utilization.
Biomass waste may be disposed of by converting it selectively into hydrogen or useful chemicals
CO2 can be sequestered by converting it into a useful highly valued product (e.g. methane, methanol, ethanol, etc.)
The system can use a broad range of biomass feedstock.
The system is simple enough that a well informed farmer can use it without assistance.
The hydrogen or chemical product is within the competitive range of present gasoline or fossil fuel prices.
The system is completely solid state and rugged. The RET system needs water vapor or steam as a feedstock. Steam generation can be obtained from the combustion of a primary energy source such as biomass. Since the system of creating hydrogen or chemicals is independent of the primary energy source, any biomass source may be used successfully. Our technology is unique in that it addresses all the concerns of biomass utilization, disposal and CO2 sequestration.
The RET technology system for biomass residue has the potential of displacing fossil fuels in farm operations. Assuming a typical energy value of 16.8 MJ/kg for grain biomass feedstock, at 70% overall process efficiency, approximately 0.1 kg of hydrogen may be produced. Thus, approximately 10 kg of biomass residue would be needed to produce the energy equivalent of about 1 gallon of gasoline. The amount of grain residue attainable per unit area, based on data for corn is a little smaller than 350 t/km2. About 35,000 equivalent gallons of gasoline could be produced using the RET process. Residues from an average farm would be enough to sustain conventional farm machinery running on hydrogen or natural gas derived from the RET system. Pooling of farming community biomass would lead to an excess production of energy that could be sold on the open market. This in turn would improve the standard of living for rural communities.