Stellenbosch University joins new Global Sustainable Bioenergy project

“We want to establish once and for all whether large-scale production of bioenergy is possible and, at the same time, can also benefit both humanity and the environment.”

This is the role that Stellenbosch University biofuels expert Prof Emile van Zyl sees for a new worldwide initiative, the Global Sustainable Bioenergy: Feasibility and Implementation Paths project, in which SU researchers are playing a key part.

As the representative for Africa, Prof Van Zyl, holder of the SANERI Senior Chair of Energy Research: Bio-fuels and other clean alternative fuels, has joined forces with some of the world’s leading experts to seek resolution of issues related to the sustainable production of bioenergy.

He says the GSB is a response to the substantial confusion and growing uncertainty about whether bioenergy (biofuels, heat, and electricity) is to play a prominent role in the future. “There are just as many critics for as against it, and the GSB wants to provide clear-cut answers that can guide policy and strategy,” he says.

Prof Van Zyl says the project will place new issues such as climate change, increased production yields and enhanced technological advancement within the context of sustainable bioenergy production.

“The project will aim to provide policy frameworks needed to ensure a sustainable result on a global scale,” he says.

The first stage of the three-stage GSB project will consist of meetings held at five locations around the world to examine and plan for issues within a regional and continental context.

These meetings will be held in Malaysia, the Netherlands, Brazil and the USA, with the regional event for Africa being planned for Stellenbosch from 15 to 17 March 2010.

The project is headed by Prof Lee Lynd of the Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College and Mascoma Corporation, Prof Nathanael Greene of the American Natural Resources Defense Council and Prof Tom Richard of Pennsylvania State University.

"Most analyses involving biofuels have been undertaken within a largely business-as-usual context,” says Prof Lynd. “In particular, none have explored in any detail on a global scale what could be achieved via complementary changes fostering graceful coexistence of food and biofuel production."

Prof Lynd will travel to Stellenbosch at the beginning of August to lend support to the organizing committee for Africa, consisting of Prof Van Zyl and Prof August Temu, a respected academic leader in agroforestry in Africa and Director of Partnerships at the World Agroforestry Centre.




African Bioenergy


Global Sustainable Bioenergy (Interview)



Liquid Biofuels form Biomass


The International Energy Agency Task 39 (Liquid Biofuels) held its technical meeting on 2 May 2009 at the Intercontinental Hotel, San Francisco.  Prof. Emile van Zyl attended the meeting as South African technical representative. The minutes of the meeting and a summary report on the status of biofuels in South Africa can be downloaded by clicking on hyperlinked words.


The International Energy Agency is also organized a symposium on Biofuels and Bioenergy : A changing climate in Vancouver, Canada from 23 until 26 August 2009. Prof. Emile van Zyl will deliver a paper on the potential of biofuels in Southern Africa and he will also act as session chair at the conference.  Prof. Johann Görgens will deliver a paper on 2nd generation technologies under development at Stellenbosch.


Chair of Energy Research 2008-2011 Biofuels