A billion people live without access to electricity, according to the World Bank. They are mostly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Bringing electricity supplies to often remote communities is expensive and could work against commitments to meet climate change targets. Delivering power is essential to alleviating poverty and providing development opportunities.
Many of these communities are rich in the solar, biomass and wind that could make a significant contribution to local electricity supplies.
Lancaster-based engineering specialist OakTec is working with partners on a project supported by the Energy Catalyst that could see its Pulse-RTM engine adapted to generate electricity from bio-gas on Kenyan farms.
Oaktec is aiming to make a difference
Oaktec is looking at ways to convert biogas produced from agricultural waste by anaerobic digestion into energy through its Pulse-RTM engine.
It is working with Mexican biodigester specialists Sistema Bio on the Kenyan project. It is also seeing strong interest in the idea from around the developing world.
The engine has been developed by leading automotive engineers. It has a high tolerance to poor fuel quality and can operate efficiently and more cleanly on liquid petroleum gas, compressed natural gas, bio-gas and hydrogen.
Pulse-RTM could be used in areas where there is no grid, but it could also provide a base load for mini local electricity grids and replace expensive and highly polluting diesel generators.
Other potential uses include as a replacement engine to power the tuk-tuks that are used to transport people in many developing countries or even in marine engines for small boats.
Oaktec chief executive Paul Andrews said:
There is a lot of desire within our business to do something that makes a difference. We obviously want to create a successful business, but we’d like to do that in a way that delivers benefit to people.
Business seeks slice of large global market
Oaktec is looking at ways to market its technology as a manufacturing process and supply chain that could be licensed to other businesses and could allow people to build local supply chains and manufacture the engine anywhere in the world.
It’s a challenge for a small company to manufacture an engine and compete with global companies like Honda, but we have a partner company actively looking at how we can manufacture the engine at a competitive price.
The global market for small combustion engines is 120 million units a year so we don’t need much of a slice of that to have a strong business.
The Energy Catalyst has been fundamental in helping us to develop Pulse-RTM. It’s allowing us to transfer sophisticated automotive technology into something quite simple, yet potentially transformational for the energy sector.