The production process and fuel standards for biodiesel were pioneered under the leadership of four of the agricultural engineers who are currently partners in SA Biodiesel (Pty) Ltd.
The research to develop an acceptable fuel involved intensive testing in diesel engines and included long-term endurance tests. These long-term endurance tests enabled the Atlantis Diesel built Perkins engines to extend the guarantee on their engines running on neat bio-diesel and formed the basis for setting the standards for bio-diesel as an alternative for mineral diesel fuel. The first standards resulting from the research were published in 1983.
Although most of the work was done with sunflower oil, most available plant oils were also evaluated including palm, avocado, groundnut, soybean, canola and cotton. Biodiesel from caster oil did not comply with the required standards.
The technology was published internationally and the research stopped in 1986. An Austrian company was the first to implement this technology during 1989 in a commercial plant, with the similar reactor capacity as was used in the research unit in SA. After that, various countries in Europe took up the technology, as it was economical viable due to the agricultural production subsidies applicable in those countries.
SA Biodiesel (Pty) Ltd has been refining the manufacturing process on an ongoing basis over the past number of years.
Involvement in bio-diesel policy development in South Africa
Members of SA Biodiesel (Pty) Ltd were involved in SA Government working groups into bio-fuels and the compilation of a report Investigation Into The Role of Biodiesel in South Africa, Report to the Department of Arts Culture, Science and Technology, March 2003.
Frans Hugo is currently the chairman of the South African Bureau of Standards Technical Committee on Biofuels Standards. SA Biodiesel (Pty) Ltd partners Johann Fuls and Dr. Lourens du Plessis also serve on the Committee. Frans Hugo was also a co-founder of the SA Bio-fuels Association (SABA)
Biofuel strategy for Zambia
SA Biodiesel (Pty) Ltd was appointed during 2005 /2006 by the Zambian Ministry of Energy and Water Development Department of Energy to compile A Biofuel Strategy for Zambia.