Science & Technology

SeaH4: Revolutionizing Biofuel with Seaweed

SeaH4, a South African innovator, has been recognized at the OceanLove Innovation Awards for its groundbreaking project to produce biofuel from seaweed. This initiative, led by founder Johannes Bochdalofsky, is set to revolutionize the fuel industry by offering a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, with plans to start large-scale production by 2028.

In a significant stride towards sustainable energy, South African company SeaH4 has garnered attention for its innovative approach to biofuel production using seaweed. This pioneering endeavor earned them accolades at the OceanLove Innovation Awards, highlighting their potential to reshape the fuel industry.

Johannes Bochdalofsky, the visionary founder of SeaH4, shared insights with MyBroadband, emphasizing the company’s commitment to affordability. “We aim for our fuel prices not to exceed that of the consumer fossil fuel equivalent,” he affirmed, underscoring the dual focus on sustainability and economic feasibility.

Currently, SeaH4 is constructing a field testing station in Pepper Bay, Saldanha, funded by V+A Investments. Concurrently, they are designing a revenue-generating pilot plant in Namibia, slated to commence operations by the end of next year. V+A Investments’ managing director, Leonel Fernandes, also serves as the group CEO of African Marine Products, further strengthening the project’s credibility.

While the commercial availability of SeaH4’s biofuel in South Africa remains uncertain, Bochdalofsky highlighted their primary focus on maritime fuels. However, he expressed openness to expanding into the African road transport sector, contingent on investor interest. “We can have production up and running as early as 2028 if approached by the right investor,” he noted.

SeaH4’s ambition extends beyond mere fuel production. Bochdalofsky envisions the company as a significant employment driver for South Africa’s West Coast, with a design ethos that avoids negatively impacting nature or food production. This holistic approach earned them recognition as a finalist in the OceanLove Innovation Awards, a platform celebrating initiatives that restore and protect marine environments.

Explaining the biofuel production process, Bochdalofsky told News24, “Producing biofuel from seaweed is simple. We use the plant to produce biogas with cow dung.” This biogas is then separated into carbon dioxide and bio-liquefied natural gas (bioLNG), which is ready to use as fuel.

The OceanLove Innovation Awards committee lauded SeaH4’s plan as “a win for the planet and its people,” praising its potential to address climate change while creating economic opportunities for rural coastal communities. SeaH4’s methodology involves farming fast-growing seaweed in ponds along desert shores, leveraging 18,000km of low-lying desert terrain to scale the solution. The vision includes expanding bioLNG production to aviation markets and eventually the African road transport sector.

Bochdalofsky’s strategy capitalizes on the synergy between biogenic CO2, bioLNG, and Africa’s emerging green hydrogen industry to produce carbon-neutral e-fuels. By utilizing indigenous biomass and relatively low-tech solutions, SeaH4 aims to replace fossil fuels on a large scale.

The project’s potential for job creation is a critical component, addressing the economic needs of rural coastal communities and reducing dependence on marine resource poaching. As electric vehicles remain unaffordable for many Africans, biofuels present a viable path to decarbonize combustion engines across the continent.

SeaH4 challenges the notion that Africa cannot produce sustainable biomass at the necessary scales to support a transition to biofuels. The company is now seeking partners to join them in their next phase, with a pilot plant in Namibia scheduled to begin construction in 2025.

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