Premium Motor Spirit also known as petrol or locally regarded as fuel in Nigeria is the country’s most consumed product from crude oil. According to data sourced from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the daily consumption of fuel in Nigeria was at 72.07 million litres in May, 2021. Majority of Nigerians use petroleum-based vehicles and power generators.
There is a large dependence on petroleum in Nigeria, largely due to unstable power supply, Nigerians use power generating sets to power up their businesses and homes.
The nation is currently facing a looming threat of widespread petrol scarcity, due to imported petroleum products having excess methanol, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) have also come out to state that the fuel scarcity crisis may last another two weeks. We believe that it may be a smart decision for the country to start considering agricultural alternatives to petrol. This will not only tackle the fast-growing fuel crisis but also reduce the country’s dependence on crude oil as the major source of revenue for the government.
Agricultural Alternatives to Petrol
Agricultural alternatives to petrol are commonly referred to as Biofuels and they include (but are not limited to) the following:
Ethanol From Maize or Sugarcane
Maize is a rich source of ethanol-based biofuels, especially sugar rich maize. Thankfully, Nigeria happens to have this valuable grain in abundance. Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of maize, followed by South Africa, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Ethanol can be obtained from maize through a process called fermentation. Yeast is used to ferment a mixture of the corn kernels and warm water, the ethanol produced is then blended with gasoline to produce a biofuel that can be used in existing car engines. Unlike petrol, this biofuel releases less carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulphur into the environment. Thus, it minimizes air pollution.
Sugarcane is yet another rich source of bioethanol and noteworthily, producing ethanol from sugarcane is reportedly six times cheaper than using corn. However, massive amounts of greenhouse gasses are typically released into the atmosphere during the harvesting of sugarcane, so obtaining this biofuel from sugarcane can result in a lot of damage if appropriate safety measures are not taken. In Nigeria, sugarcane can be cultivated almost in all the states locally but commercially it is produced in; Kastina, Taraba, Kano, Adamawa, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kebbi, and Sokoto State.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Nigeria is the fifth largest palm oil producing country in the world, with 1.5% or 1.03 million metric tonnes of the world’s total output. This edible vegetable oil is commonly used to prepare numerous nigerian delicacies, not many are aware of its value as an energy-efficient biofuel. Palm oil based biodiesel is less polluting than gasoline and has helped develop the economies of countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
Research has shown that bioel palm oil based biofuel has certain advantages over petroleum-based diesel. For example, its sulfur content is much lower, this is an advantage because the sulfur dioxide release from the use of petroleum-based diesel is a serious atmospheric pollutant which can lead to acid rain and is hazardous to human health. It also produces far less carbon residues, which means that it will leave less carbon build-up in a diesel engine than petroleum diesel. Palm oil-based biodiesel also has some physical and chemical disadvantages, such as a higher viscosity, a higher flashpoint, and a lower gross heat of combustion.
Canola oil is a vegetable oil derived from a variety of rapeseed that is low in erucic acid. It is commonly used to cook food, however it is now recognized as an important biofuel source. Canola oil can be processed into low-carbon biofuels: biodiesel, renewable diesel and aviation fuel. It can also be utilized at petroleum refineries to lower the greenhouse gas emissions of transportation fuels.
Biofuels derived from plant oils do not usually fare well in cold climates because plant oils tend to be high in saturated fats, which allow ice crystals to form at low temperatures. Unlike other plant oils, Canola oil contains low amounts of saturated fats, which clearly gives it an advantage in colder environments than its alternatives. Canola-based biofuel can be used by passenger vehicles and trucks, as well as off-road equipment used in mining, forestry, construction, agriculture and marine industries.
Soy biodiesel is a fuel alternative produced from soybean oil. Like other biofuels, Soybean oil is better for the environment because it is made from renewable resources and has lower emissions compared to petroleum diesel. To be transformed into usable biofuel, Soybean oil must undergo a chemical process called transesterification whereby glycerin is separated from the soybean oil. According to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria is the largest producer of soybean in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by South Africa and according to UNL CropWatch, one bushel of soybeans can yield 1.5 gallons of biodiesel. Therefore, soybean oil could prove to be a valuable alternative to petrol in Nigeria.
Cotton is still a major cash crop in Nigeria even though its production seems to be dwindling in recent times. Cottonseed is non-edible and even poisonous to humans, this makes it a perfect agricultural alternative to petrol because its usage for large scale production of biofuel will not affect food production in any way. Out of various oil sources for biodiesel production, cottonseed oil is the most prominent source for biodiesel production in India. Biofuel can be obtained from crude cottonseed oil by transesterification with methanol in the presence of sodium hydroxide.
Biofuels are already being used as substitutes for petroleum and other fossil fuels in countless countries. These agricultural alternatives to petrol are biodegradable, sustainable and environmentally friendly, their production and usage could potentially allow us to decrease our dependence on Petroleum.