Namibia: biofuel boost for cement-maker

10 July 2014

Manufacturing cement is energy intensive and can be a burden on the environment. Namibia’s Ohorongo Cement plant has come up with an environment-friendly innovative solution with a competitive edge.

Slowly and relentlessly, the specially developed harvester cuts its way through the tangled undergrowth. Blackthorn can grow to as high as seven metres, forming impenetrable thickets. It won’t let any other species grow in the vicinity. But the harvester turns the bush into wood chips.

They are used for fuel by Ohorongo Cement, Namibia’s only cement manufacturer, giving it a potential edge over some of its competitors on the world market. Biofuel accounts for 30% of Ohorongo’s energy needs; eventually the company wants to raise this figure to 80%.

“In the long term, we will be very competitive,” said manager Gerhard Hirth. Not having to rely on coal and oil imports, the company was able to keep energy costs down while making a positive contribution to the environment.

Ohorongo Cement’s management say the company has directly or indirectly created some 2,500 jobs
Hirth said the Chinese were a threat. The Namibian government had promised Ohorongo Cement that a tariff agreement would subject imports to a 60% levy. But a Chinese importer was operating in Namibia, paying no levy. “We have lost more than €30 million,” Hirth said. Legal proceedings are still in progress.

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