The use of organic waste such as palm kernel shells, meat and bone meal, and wooden pellets to make valuable fuels which can be used for the production of energy and chemicals was researched for a postgraduate degree.
The work rewarded Mr Bonginkosi Ndwandwe with top honours – an MSc degree summa cum laude in Chemical Engineering!
Supervised by Professor Amir Mohammadi, Ndwandwe’s thesis was titled: ASPEN Plus Simulations of Gasification Process for Various Feedstocks.
‘Owing to COVID-19, there has been a huge demand for chemicals such as ethanol, which is used as a sanitizer,’ he said. ‘It is one of the products produced from the organic waste by the air gasification process.
‘My study aimed to convert organic waste into valuable fuel gas, such as synthetic gas, using ASPEN Plus as a process simulation tool. It was able to predict the volume of waste that can be converted to energy and chemical production through chemical processes. Doing that ensures environmental sustainability.’
Ndwandwe said with climate change being a global problem, he wanted to understand and contribute to solving it. ‘Protecting the environment is something very close to my heart. I have been exposed to these challenges in informal settlements and rural areas where there are no valuable methods employed to reduce waste other than landfilling and combustion, which causes air pollution.’
Ndwandwe’s immediate plans are to register with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) as a professional engineer while he is also considering doing a PhD.
He thanked his supervisor for providing guidance during his research and for assisting him with funding. He also paid tribute to his mother and family for praying for him and pushing him to do well in his studies.
Ndwandwe was awarded his undergraduate BSc Chemical Engineering degree from UKZN in 2012. ‘I fell in love with the Institution at a very young age – I would say it was love at first sight,’ he quipped. Coming back to do his master’s degree was therefore a natural choice for him.
‘UKZN is among the best in the research field!’
Words: Sally Frost
Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal