Sibusiso Shabangu and helpers Thando Nkosi, Velaphi Maziya, Zakele Mavimbena, Msimanga Bhiya, Sfiso Dzimba and Samvelo Lubisi with the small biofuel ‘plant’.
SIBANGE – Although the small, round, roofless structure with pipes and plastic containers attached to it looks unassuming, over the past three months Sibusiso Shabangu (27) has managed to produce crude oil, diesel and petrol from maize bags with the rudimentary system.
The entrepreneur and inventor took stock of his life a few months ago and realised that he could not see himself being a security guard for the rest of his life. He went back home and decided to see which job opportunities he could find that utilised plastic. He has a passion for the material and started doing research on plastic paving.
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While browsing the web at an Internet cafe in the area, he came across research on biofuel.
He started experimenting and, with the help of two community members, managed to put together a system that works. He decided to use maize bags and, each morning, goes around the community knocking on doors to gather plastic for his project.
The bags are put in a steel drum and heated up to 460 degrees Celsius to melt. Through a system of pipes and tanks, the liquid is refined from oil to diesel and petrol. The hot air is then cooled in water, which also negates the fumes.
Sibusiso Shabangu (right), with his right-hand man Thando Nkosi.
Once he managed to produce liquids, he tested each one to see if it was really oil, diesel and petrol and was delighted when it worked.
Shabangu is thinking of even harnessing the gasses and adding more steps to the process to utilise as much of the product he produces as possible.
He is very environmentally conscious and finds uses for all of the waste products through experimentation. One plastic-like substance can be melted down and poured into containers to use as candles, while another makes a great floor wax.
Some of the liquids and a wax-like by-product Sibusiso Shabangu has produced.
Shabangu said he is continuously learning as he regularly needs to adapt the process when challenges arise. He is assisted by a creative neighbour, who is also a skilled welder.
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Currently he can produce five litres each of oil, diesel and petrol with 250 maize bags and hopes to get larger tanks to increase the production.
He currently works throughout the day and is interested in experimenting with tyres and even sugar cane once this first project is successful.
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Over the past three months, he had an assistant and recently a few more community members started pitching in to stoke the fire or assist where they can.
He has approached various government departments, organisations and even the SABS for funding and certification in order to expand the project into a fully fledged business.
Shabangu is passionate about community development and hopes to hire locals once he is able.
“It will be easier to create job opportunities once this project succeeds. I would like to establish a plant here.
“This will ensure that money is circulated only in Nkomazi and it will bring down the fuel price,” he said. He is also keen to share his expertise and products with the community.
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Shabangu explained that he would like certification that his product is the real deal, and to get it on the market, as well as a safe space where he can continue and expand on his work. He currently needs R10 000 for an application to register the business and would appreciate sponsors to assist him to take the next step in his work.
People interested in assisting Shabangu can contact him on 064-977-7981.