By SAMUEL PRINCE-NNAJI
From time immemorial, it’s been discovered that the world is unarguably driven by science and technology; this very vital aspect of human knowledge has tremendously transformed everything about life from the Stone to the present Information Age.
The numerous feat recorded, ranging from car, airplane, ship, electricity, x-ray, etc, were made possible by men and women of yesterday who choose to dare, appreciating the likes of Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers, Isaac Newton, and so on. On this edition of ‘Youths in Perspective’, we introduce to you a dogged scientist, Mr. Patrick Nwosu.
This astute inventor and youth leader has carved a niche for himself in the science and technology sector and haven been awarded three patent right, one could say that those are definitely a recompense for his excellent input in scientific research and innovations.
In this exclusive interview with Abuja Business Reports, the Chemist and Inventor layed bare the significance of biogas and why the government must consider a massive investment in this very potent biological energy.
For the benefit of people who may want to know you, can you tell us about yourself?
I am by name Ejikeme Patrick Nwosu, a Nigerian from Anambra State. Academically, I am a scientist trained in chemistry, specifically in industrial chemistry, at bachelor’s degree level and medicinal chemistry at master’s degree level. I am not just a trained chemist or scientist I am also a practicing one.
I have been involved in series of studies and researches which have earned me three invention patent rights from the Federal Republic of Nigeria on conversion of waste, essentially urine into energy, that’s in the academic and research aspect.
On the other side, social political aspect, I am the founder and the National Coordinator of Reformed Youth Movement of Nigeria (REYOM), a civil society organization, for all the Nigerian youths from all the states, irrespective of religion, tribe and social-economic status.
The idea is to bring our young ones together in unity peace and to seek for economic empowerment and emancipation for our young people.
The norm seems to be, after studying a particular course one would delve into another profession as job opportunity presents itself, but it’s different in your case. Why did you decide remain in your line of study?
The basic thing that made me to remain in the practice of science irrespective of all the struggles embedded in practicing science in Nigeria is love for science. I have so much passion for science. From secondary school days, I remember those days being in the library, going through books and seeing the life, pictures and inventions and discoveries of great scientist.
I got so much motivated that even in those days in secondary school I did contrive and perform some experiments at home. I had so much passion and devotion toward science. But unfortunately, Nigeria is not well encouraging due lack of facilities. But nevertheless, we are already here and something must be done.
I remember joining America Chemical Society, the world largest scientific society, as a 100 level student studying chemistry. When I started receiving some journals, I noticed that most of us are not Africans so I asked myself, ‘what is really happening’.
Then I said, despite the odds one will strive to attain perfection in the little way one can. Though when I finished first degree university education I struggled to get into US for some studies, but it didn’t really go well the way I planned it.
I could remember when we were about rounding off our studies we did a year book. Everyone was putting in their role model I put my role model then as it is still now as Isaac Newton.
Being a scientist and practicing science, has been so important to me that even all the obstacles in the country one has faced is not enough to stop my dream and aspirations. I know and believe that through science one can come up with a lot of solutions to many nagging world problems.
From what you are doing right now ‘Biogas’ that is converting organic waste to natural useful gas. One could call you a biogas engineer, but most people don’t understand what biogas is, could you tell us?
The world biogas is coined from two things, bio and the gas. We already know gas; it’s a state of matter that has random motion. Bio is life.
So, biogas simply means gases from living things or gases from bio degradable sources. In a nut shell, biogases are gases that are derived from biodegradable sources.
Biodegradable are things that decay, food waste, agricultural waste, cow dung, human feces. Things we waste that can decay, they can be converted into biodegradable gases.
Biogas is essentially methane. Methane is the lowest hydrocarbon from alkenes homologous series.
Biodegradable waste is converted into biogas using a vessel called a digester. Digester is an enclosure where there is no air. So in the absence of oxygen called anaerobic condition, those wastes are converted into bio-methane and there are some carbon dioxide and carbon IV oxide among them.
The carbon dioxide can be removed because it is not a combustible gas and does not support combustion, so that the clean, better and purer bio-methane CH4 is produced. The biogas which is essentially methane can be used as coking gas at home. It can also be used to power generator to generate electricity using gas biogas generator.
Then why is bio-methane as bio gas a better gas, because from the structure CH4 it has a lot of hydrogen per carbon atom, it has the highest hydrogen content of any hydrocarbon per carbon atom. It is the best of the hydrocarbon available. In this age of global warming, climate change, environmental degradation, bio methane is the best hydrocarbon that could be used.
In a lay man’s understanding, using kunu (the locally brewed guinea corn into beverage) to buttress this point, it contains starch, when you put it in an enclosure say a plastic container, cover and leave it there for some days.
You’d notice that the container swells up. What happened there is this, the kunu has been converted into biogas and what does the conversion is what we call anaerobic bacteria inside the kunu. This is the same technology we employ at a higher level.
On the other aspect, the invention patent right we got from the Federal Republic of Nigeria is for another technology entirely which is conversion of urine into flammable gases. Those gases contains no carbon at all and they are better than the bio-methane
Crude oil has many constituent like the fuel (PMS), Kerosene, diesel and many more. In biogas technology, what are the by-product from the conversion of waste and what are they used for?
The major product obtained from anaerobic digestion or biodegradable waste is called biogas is methane.
Though there is methane, there could be carbon dioxide and other gases, but the carbon dioxide (Carbon IV Oxide is the IUPAC name) is not a combustible gas and does not support combustion, it’s primarily removed. The only gas, which is the major gas obtained from anaerobic digestion of biodegradable waste from anaerobic digester is methane.
Methane is used for cooking it could also be used to run your gas generator, then in the processing of urine into gases we also have other products that one is another technology entirely to which I mentioned earlier. They found me worthy of invention patent right of the technology.
The gases produced in those ones are rich in hydrogen and Ammonia; it can also be used for running generator or for cooking purposes. Then we also have byproducts of that urine treatment which have fire resistance materials which are used in the production of fire resistance paints.
The byproducts of these biodegradable waste materials are very potent from your explanation, those can be used for cooking and running the generator and other things, do you think they can displace the fuel and kerosene presently in use?
Yes, biogases Ammonia, Hydrogen are better than what we have. Why they must displace kerosene and the conventional petrol is because the carbon content in kerosene and petrol is too high and they are causing a lot of climatic disorder.
Let me put it this way, when you burn kerosene or the conventional petrol you are producing a lot of carbon dioxide and it goes up into the atmosphere and absorb a lot of heat, causing global warming and increasing the temperature of the earth, making the icing arctic to melt, causing a lot of health issues and this exposes us to trouble, we are already in trouble.
Before COVID-19 climate change and global warming is the greatest threat to the human existence. What I saw while watching either CNN or BBC the other day, in India an old man was crossing the road , the melted tarred road due high temperature, held the man’s slippers that he almost fell on the ground. So we must do something about this. Burning kerosene or conventional fuel has a lot of health issues.
The amount of carbon dioxide, smoke, sooth being generated is too high. In some major cities in the world, even before the covid-19, in some days they go out fully kitted with their nose mask because of the high level of pollution of the air.
We must do away with kerosene and petrol as soon as possible. In fact some nations are already working out strategies for adoption of hydrogen, ammonia and other sources of energy that are less in carbon content. Some countries will be done in 2040 while some will wrap up before then. Whether we do this or not our crude oil reserves are getting depleted. Some studies put them at 43 years from now to get to an end.
But am not looking at the end of oil, I keep saying we mustn’t wait until crude oil reserves we have get exhausted before we start thinking seriously on other sources of energy. For instance Stone Age did not end with unavailability of stones. Stone Age ended with invention and adoption of better technology.
Sir with the invention patent right issued to you by the Nigerian government, it makes you eligible to operate, which you’ve doing. What is your scale of production and the market acceptance?
Well we are doing our best it has not been easy. It’s not always easy to get new technologies accepted especially in this part of the world. But we have some pilot plans; we have one in Abuja which you can also come and visit.
We are also doing some projects in different parts of the country. The acceptance is there, new technology requires massive investment and more research and development for it to be cheaper and more available to people.
For instance you remember when GSM came into the country and MTN SIM cards came in, some people bought their SIM card as high as 30,000 some 20,000 and so on, but now SIM card is as cheap as almost free because of massive investment and others. So we expect massive support and investment into this area of technology and sector.
I keep telling all the people I speak with, that if we don’t do it right, we will be forced to import these technologies. Let do this and get it owned and we can become net exporter of energy.
With the level of economic viability of your invention, how much input has the government made to support what you are doing?
I was reading something yesterday on response of COVID-19 by different government of the world and the writer was of the opinion that Germany is one of the best in the world that in Germany an entrepreneur can apply for government support in this COVID-19 era and get $15,000 into his or her account within 3 days. But here in Nigeria, you know how things work, the government is too slow. Though there was some support from the government last year, but all I can say is that the government is not doing enough. That’s why many of us if not for the much love on what one is doing, the country, the discouragements and other things faced, it is enough for one to look for a permanent residence in other part of the world.
Looking at the biogas technology in general and what you are turning it into, aside the governments have you at any time reach out to other prospective investor, individuals or private organization, who may be interested to invest.
I have a partner; he came in and saw what I have done and what I am capable of doing in this line of research business. I am the technical managing executive partner while the other person is the financing partner.
Though it has not been a smooth ride, but we know that Rome was not made in a day. We are doing our best; there are some private groups and others we are talking with. The other time, I made contact with Gravezina, the man that drove car over twenty years ago on Amonia, from Canada. We are in discussion, though am not in a hurry to strike some business deal with the outside bodies.
What is paramount for me is that, we will develope everything here and own it because we have already done lot of things. Sometimes last year, we wanted to procure some certain machine for crossing some metallic materials which we use for the project.
I looked at the cost of importing same machine, it’s almost one million five hundred thousand (#1,500,000). With my team we were able to produce the machine at much cheaper cost than the amount for importation. Am happy with what we’ve done, but I know that efforts are needed to do more to enable us get to where we desire.
Let move away from the invention, you are the founder and national coordinator of the Reformed Youth Movement of Nigeria (REYOM), what is the core mandate of the organization and why did decide to form it?
Reformed Youth Movement of Nigeria (REYOM) was formed basically to be an umbrella body for promoting peace, unity and empowerment of the Nigerian youths. It’s also an organization that tries to encourage the young people to be reformed in deeds, actions, patriotic and we encourage our reformed members to take part in politics and governance because like one of the greatest philosopher said, if you don’t get involved in politics, you’d be govern by your inferiors.
If you say it is dirty, what makes it dirty go and clean it up. If all of us get interested in what happens, the system will become better. Like in every life situations especially here, and other parts of the world, good things do come with challenges.
Do you intend going into politics in the nearest future?
Am interested in influencing my society positively starting from where I am, where I live, where I work, worship, whoever I am with. And I am also very interested in impacting the world positively using the inert abilities that The Almighty the Creator has deposited in me.
I am more interested in bringing in life changing, life saving innovations that will make life better, bring economic prosperity, wealth, empowerment, emancipation for myself, for my nation, for the black race and the world. I believe we can always serve, not necessarily being in full politics.
The truth is that with the way it’s played so far, am not a fan of politics. For instance, I like to be honest, speak from my heart, but you can see that in politics. You have to be a member of a political party and to be a good party member, even if your party is doing the wrong thing; you are not expected to come out openly to talk against your party.
There is the saying that ‘Politicians are liars’, well it seems to be true. Mine is more of being a constructive critic. Bringing economic prosperity, emancipation using the innovation and technology one can come up with. Though, it is easier to bring much change when you have political power.
For young people especially those who are in post-elementary schools who desire to be like you (an inventor), what would you recommend they begin to do now. To enable them get a better grip of all that is required in other to succeed in the future?
First thing I would advise people especially young ones is, they should know what they love doing. Ask yourself what are those things you love doing, and can do without getting paid.
When you do things that you love even when the road seems tough, you’ll remain in the race. Do love and be serious about it. Also, you have to work hard because even God worked for six straight days, He does abhor laziness. The Apostles of Jesus Christ had handiwork before they were called, same with Moses; it is that thing in your hands that will be transformed.
Again don’t tie everything to money; just keep doing it because of the love. One of the regrets of most people have on their dying bed is not being able to fulfill their childhood dreams. Most died rich yet they were never fulfilled. To live a fulfilled life, you must look for what you love doing and be passionate about it and get it done.
How do you package your product and how expensive is it?
For now we are concentrating on doing it where there is light waste production and gases are produce and used In situ there that is, the waste being generated is enough to provide for the energy needs. But before the end of the year, we are trying to deploy smaller set up that can be used by individuals.
The main message here is for us collectively, as Individual, private, government to invest massively in the cleaner energy technology, because if we don’t do the right thing we will be in trouble of climatic degradation.
Finally, as a leader of the youths, if you look around you could see that most of the youth are perplexed as a result of what the country and situation has turned into. Some of the youths tend to endure the pain and not engaging in action that would be detrimental to themselves and the society while others who couldn’t endure any longer have rather become nuisance. What do you have to tell them?
My position as the leader of Reformed Youth Movement of Nigeria made me to know more about what our young ones are facing. Especially during this COVID-19 era many lost their jobs, we were able to give material assistance to some we could.
I see that many Nigerian youths are hard working and they are ready to work whether educated or not, but the issue is that the system is frustrating the efforts of the young ones. It’s high time the government came up with policies that will encourage massive industrialisation, agriculture and job creation.
This job creation is beyond employing 100 people in civil service that we don’t know what the output is. When I was Guangzhou China last year, I saw lot of stack, containers, massive production everywhere, there where large, medium and small scale companies, but first there is electricity, good roads and other infrastructures, when these things are in place here, the youths can easily get employed directly or indirectly or self employed.
Banks have our data; people should be to easily access facilities, loans, to enable them set up businesses. The major challenge is from the government, it is not so difficult to change the narrative. We have a huge span of land, imagine importing lots of tractors, employ graduate, build houses for them there, just so we would have food security in that aspect. Over 80% of chemical we use in this country are imported why can’t we manufacture them here.
There is need for the youths to be part of the policy making body in the country, reason why we encourage the reformed youths to be part of government, but to get into government is not easy.
To the young ones don’t lose hope, believe that your tomorrow will be better and don’t get involved in crime, and always be patriotic.