Biofuel from nuts
The Kenyan company EcoFix (K) has established production of biofuel from the fruit of the croton tree growing in sub-Saharan Africa. The product of nut processing can be used as fuel for power generators and a raw material in production of cosmetics, fertilisers and animal feed.

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The croton is a drought-tolerant tree growing for five to seven years and finally reaching the height of 36 metres. Under natural conditions, the croton bears fruit twice a year, both times five months after the end of the rainy season in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and other sub-Saharan countries. Croton wood is termite-resistant, and therefore, used in Africa not only as firewood but also as a building material. The croton fruit containing inedible seeds was long considered useless, but the EcoFix (K) company, founded in 2012, has found several uses for them.

The first was production of biofuel technologically resembling the process of pressing nuts: oil is “squeezed” from the fruit under high pressure. The oil can be used as an alternative raw material for diesel generators. The croton oil has a higher ignition temperature than diesel fuel, so its use is accompanied by lower emissions.

Another application area was production of mineral fertilisers. Croton nuts have a higher nitrogen content than the composted biomass, this inspired the EcoFix (K) to produce organic fertiliser from nut husks. In its turn, the croton cake contains more protein (25-30%) than the sunflower cake (20%) and the rapeseed one (18%). Thanks to these properties, the EcoFix (K) has established animal feed production. Finally, the company’s product line includes cosmetic products: in particular, soaps and moisturising face masks, for which croton nuts are also used. As a result, the EcoFix (K) collected 600 tons of fruit during the first year of its existence, but up to now, the annual harvest has reached 3,000 tons.

The EcoFix (K) has contributed to bioenergy development in Kenya. In 2021, the country ranked the sixth in Africa in terms of the installed bioenergy capacity (87 megawatts), ranking below Ethiopia (335 MW), South Africa (265 MW), Sudan (199 MW), Swaziland (106 MW) and Zimbabwe (100 MW). Uganda (96 MW), Mauritius (91 MW), French Réunion (87 MW) and Egypt (79 MW) round out the top ten in the region.


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April 2022