The world's biggest producer of fuel from coal, Sasol, is investigating the possible development of a "biodiesel" fuel processed from soya beans.

The world's biggest producer of fuel from coal, Sasol, is investigating the possible development of a "biodiesel" fuel pressed from soya beans.

Sasol project manager Johan Thyse told delegates at a grain producers' congress that the company was considering a plant that would convert 400 000 tons of soya beans into 91 million litres of diesel a year.

It is estimated that Sasol spends R250 million a year on research and development. A two-and-a-half year feasibility study had found the production economically viable, Thyse said.

Last year Sasol said it was focussing on fuel cell and biodiesel technologies as energy alternatives. Local farmers already produce diesel sunflowers and canola in limited volumes.

Sasol said it was identifying partners to develop the product along the lines of the new generation of cleaner fuels in Europe and the US. Refined with methanol and other chemicals, the soya beans would constitute only five per cent of the new fuel. They would improve engine lubrication, decrease emissions and create human or animal feed as a byproduct.

Aside from the environmental benefits, the low-sulphur biodiesel has the potential to lessen Sasol's exposure to crude oil price fluctuations.

But the commissioning of the soya-to-diesel facility may still be some way off considering that Sasol researched its now globally sought after gas-to-liquids technology for many years before its actual introduction.

Original article from Car