Nelson Mandela University Heads GreenQUEST for Sustainable LPG in Southern Africa

In a groundbreaking initiative, the Department of Chemistry at Nelson Mandela University is leading the charge in transforming the production and use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in southern Africa.

The GreenQUEST project, a multi-institutional, transdisciplinary research partnership, is paving the way for a sustainable and green future by developing a revolutionary fuel gas known as gLFG. This endeavour addresses environmental concerns and focuses on LPG usage’s technical, economic, and social dimensions.

The Quest for Sustainable LPG

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LPG, a widely used fuel for cooking, heating, and various other purposes, is undergoing a significant transformation through the GreenQUEST project. Spearheaded by Professor Zenixole Tshentu and his team at Mandela University, the primary goal is to develop gLFG, a sustainable and green liquefied fuel gas. This quest aligns with the global shift towards cleaner and renewable energy sources.

The Innovative Chemistry Behind gLFG Production

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The innovation at the heart of the GreenQUEST project lies in the scientific and technological development of catalysts and processes. Unlike previous attempts with one-pot conversion, the research team adopts a multi-step process to create a carbon-neutral system. The intricate process involves breaking down carbon dioxide to gLFG through a series of reactions, including converting CO2 to carbon monoxide, methanol, dimethyl ether (DME), and finally, the production of gLFG.

Mandela University’s team is crucial in developing catalysts for converting DME to gLFG. This collaboration with Professor Jack Fletcher’s University of Cape Town (UCT) team marks a significant step forward in the scientific and technological advancements needed to achieve sustainable LPG production.

Acceptance and Affordability in Off-Grid Communities

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Beyond the laboratory, the GreenQUEST project aims to assess the social acceptance of gLFG in off-grid southern African communities. These communities heavily rely on LPG and other more polluting fuels like firewood, charcoal, and paraffin, impacting their health and contributing to carbon emissions. Understanding the social dynamics is crucial to determine whether these communities would be prepared to embrace and use gLFG.

Moreover, the affordability of gLFG is a key consideration. Pricing is expected to be a decisive factor in its adoption, and subsidies may be necessary to make it accessible for end-users. The project recognises the need for governments to play a role in subsidising gLFG, and the potential use of carbon credits to offset costs adds an intriguing economic dimension to the sustainability equation.

International Collaboration

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GreenQUEST is not just a local initiative; it’s a collaborative effort on an international scale. The project brings together researchers from Nelson Mandela University, the University of Cape Town, and Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin in Germany. The three-year research partnership is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF), emphasising the global significance of this endeavour.

The collaboration extends beyond the scientific and research domains, fostering relationships between South African and German partners. These partnerships will pave the way for lasting strategic alliances in crucial climate change research and mitigation areas.

Ensuring Safety in the Transition

Amidst the innovative strides towards sustainable LPG, safety remains a primary concern. The GreenQUEST project acknowledges the importance of ensuring that gLFG is environmentally friendly and safe for widespread use. Rigorous testing, adherence to safety standards, and ongoing monitoring are integral aspects of the project to guarantee the safety of communities adopting gLFG.

GreenQUEST’s ambitious journey to transform LPG into a sustainable and green energy source is as inspiring as necessary. The quest for gLFG signifies a holistic approach towards addressing the challenges traditional LPG use poses.

As the project progresses, it aims to revolutionise energy sources and promises to foster enduring partnerships contributing to the global fight against climate change. In the pursuit of a greener future, GreenQUEST stands as a beacon of hope and progress.

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