Bulawayo — BULAWAYO'S first ever solid waste-to-energy project is back on the rails with the investor, Pragma Leaf Consulting Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd, pledging to inject up to US$150 million to set up the conversion plant and kick-start production.
Although the project has suffered a number of false starts in previous years despite the company having already purchased land for setting up the plant in December 2014, Pragma Leaf Consulting said in a statement that the renewable investment project was "on course towards being operational with progress being made on several fronts" following the ironing out of sticking issues.
The project developers are in the process of completing the front-end engineering design (FEED) study that will include acquisition of all required land and licensing.
"This process is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2019. Construction will commence in 2020 and production of bio-fuels following thereafter. The appropriate technology has already been identified and arrangements are in progress to finalise the procurement with the suppliers from abroad," reads part of the statement.
The Bulawayo waste-to-energy project was initiated through the support of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) in 2012.
In its statement, Pragma Leaf said it signed a contract with the Bulawayo City Council in December 2018 for the establishment of the waste-to-energy plant.
"This triggered a mobilisation process where Pragma Leaf Consulting has been finalising financial, technical and permitting arrangements with the BCC, local and foreign investors and institutional stakeholders," it said.
This project has the potential for positive social, economic and environmental impact on the city of Bulawayo and surroundings. It is hoped the investment will generate jobs, promote the diversification of energy, as well as promote health and wellbeing among others.
According to Pragma Leaf, up to US$150 million value of investment will be channelled into Bulawayo under the project while over 300 jobs would be created at the plant and about 2 000 jobs downstream.
The investment would also assist in the rehabilitation of old landfills and promotion of regeneration projects on the previously unusable sites, production of renewable energy in the form of bio-fuels (biodiesel, biogas and electricity) for domestic and international markets.
Other benefits include savings through import substitution and blending processes.
The contractor also said it has an agreement with the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) to train renewable energy engineers who will service the plant for its 25 year life.
"This will result in a huge skills transfer element that will benefit locals," it said.
The waste-to-energy model is credited for enhancing modernisation of the waste management system in cities with huge environmental benefits that include a reduction in Greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere from untreated waste.
Pragma Leaf Consulting was formerly based in the United Kingdom but has registered and established a local Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the development of the project.
The investment will be done in phases with stage one focused on civil engineering works on the project site including the waste reception, sorting and recycling facilities.
It is anticipated that as soon as the FEED study is completed, phase one, which involves construction, commissioning of the plastics to fuel (PTF) sector, will commence within six months.
Phase two will be the bio-fuels and gas production while phase three will be electricity generation. It is expected that three years into the plant operation the waste to power (WTP) section producing up to 20MW power will be completed.
"Pragma Leaf Consulting is happy to confirm that the company is on course to establishing this landmark project despite the difficult operational environment caused by the struggling economy.
"This is a long term project that will operate for 25 years with an option of extension should there be need," said the company.
Due to its strong business case, there is great interest by both local and international investors and the project developers are confident this project will bring much needed capital injection into the Bulawayo economy.
Despite being 100 percent foreign equity, Pragma leaf said the project would be opened for participation of locals due to strong interest.
"The company is negotiating opening up to 20 percent for local investors. Details of the local investment model will be made available in due course," it said.