The vision of the Centre of Excellence in Carbon-based Fuels is to be the leaders in developing carbon-based fuels for improvements in energy efficiency, operational reliability and availability, as well as in minimising the carbon footprint by reducing the impact of emissions in general in the South African energy offering.


The mission of the Centre of Excellence in Carbon-based Fuels is to conduct research and train scientists and engineers in the energy sector, develop new knowledge and strengthen the advantages that South Africa already has in the energy sector.


The Centre of Excellence in Carbon-based Fuels will be a research entity with a clear focus in the energy field, linked to national and also international priorities.

The research will be centred on the preparation, pre-treatment and production of coal and biomass-based liquids, solid and gaseous fuels, as well the beneficiation of associated products and the mitigation of the impact of the use of coal and biomass as energy source, not omitting the environment. It is therefore a cradle-to-grave approach to ensure the optimum use of fuels to obtain energy, with the conservation of the environment in mind.

The centre will be the host for the present three established research chairs, i.e. (1) the SARChI Research Chair in Coal Research, (2) the ESKOM EPPEI Specialisation Centre for Emission Control, and (3) the SARChI Research Chair in Biofuels and other Clean Alternative Fuels fuels. It will enlarge its footprint in environmental aspects and underground coal gasification. There is already strong research collaboration between the three focus groups that will form the founding part of the centre of excellence, combining the strengths of these groups into a mutual vision and strategic plan.

The main priorities of South Africa are poverty alleviation, addressing inequality and combating unemployment. The strategy of both the DTI and DST is aimed at supporting research activities that will increase South Africa’s competitiveness in the international market and create a critical mass of scientists and engineers who can support new technologies and innovations that can lead to new job opportunities across a wide spectrum of skills. The research focus of the proposed centre of excellence fits in very well with regard to the training of scientists and engineers in the energy sector, the development of new knowledge, and strengthening the advantages that South Africa already has in the energy sector. 

Technology transfer from universities to commercial entities and the industry has been one of the major stumbling blocks for the implementation of new processes and technologies in the energy and transportation sectors. Demonstration plants and/or working prototypes that demonstrate how new technologies can be incorporated into the existing industry can greatly help in this regard, and this is an objective of the centre. The roll-out of new technologies through demonstration plants, prototypes with industrial partnership, or spin-off companies is one way of ensuring that research stays relevant to the needs of the industry. It also ensures that new technological developments are commercially implemented to positively affect the local and national communities. A strong energy research group with strong research outputs of high quality will strengthen the NWU’s presence and reputation in the energy and fuels sector. It will also put the NWU in a better position to create an energy platform on campus.

The three research chairs operating within the Centre of Excellence for Carbon-based Fuels will thus not only have the competency to deliver on enhancing energy efficiency, but also have the expertise to address the environmental footprint associated with the use of fossil fuels. The biofuels chair in particular also contributes towards renewable energy, thereby enhancing the “green” aspects of carbon-based fuels.

The entity's list of programmes includes:

  • Fine coal processing
  • Coal-conversion process optimisation
  • Coal-waste utilisation
  • Monitoring and impact of emissions
  • Emissions-controlling technologies
  • Biomass-conversion process optimisation
  • Waste to liquid fuels
  • Energy and power technologies
  • Low-carbon fuel technologies
  • Green economy products
  • Processes and water management

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