YEP Energy Position – Engineers Without Borders (Bionexx) – Fianarantsoa, Madagascar


Position: Renewable Energy Engineer

Project title: Sustainable Energy for Bionexx

Duration: 1 year (possibility to extend to 2 years)

Bionexx is a natural ingredient production company with the main aim to make an impact in Madagascar on the livelihood of smallholder farmer families, contribute positively to degraded land restoration and practice and integrate a circular production process. The main product Bionexx is producing is artemisinin, a key molecule for Malaria medication. During the feasibility study (already done), the Bionexx production process was analysed by Engineers without Borders from the farmer to the end product. The objective was to identify improvement opportunities to make the process more sustainable, safer, and more circular. This project focuses on the development of those opportunities for improvement.


This project is carried out in collaboration with Engineers Without Borders the Netherlands (EWB NL), a Dutch NGO with the goal to promote, teach and implement sustainable technical solutions in developing countries. We use the time of our engineers to improve life in developing countries by supporting local organisations, NGO’s, and entrepreneurs with our technical knowledge. All our projects are based on a local request and include a business/social model. In this way we realise a long-term and sustainable impact. Recognising the extensive social impact of Bionexx for the local community in Madagascar and beyond, EWB NL offered to support the Bionexx organisation improve their plant operations across multiple areas.

Bionexx extracts artemisinin from the plant artemisia annua. The artemisinin content on the plant is about 1%. Waste biomass from the extraction process is currently burnt in a furnace, coupled with a steam boiler. The current furnace and boiler are not state-of-art and can be improved. The goal is to improve the furnace/boiler and to find new applications for the steam (with a particular focus on electricity generation). Achieving this goal will have the following impact:

  • Increased energy efficiency: higher valorisation of the biomass whose full potential is currently not used.
  • Innovation: development of technical solutions for decentralised electricity generation from small low-pressure steam flows. This could be achieved using technology such as micro-scale low-pressure steam turbines or an organic rankine cycle unit.
  • Environmental impact: a reduction in emissions from the existing furnace. Black smoke (likely due to particles and incomplete combustion) and yellow fumes (likely NOx emissions) are currently observed. The new furnace design should aim to eliminate these problems.
  • Social impact: the steam can be potentially used to produce electricity. The excess electricity generated could be used to supply power to the nearby village. This is a long-term goal and it is not expected to be reached within the time frame of the YEP project (next 2 years). Another possibility is to convert excess biomass, which will increase if the boiler efficiency is improved, into briquettes which could be distributed locally and used as cooking fuel.


The young expert will be working on-site at Bionexx to develop the project for improving the efficiency of the furnace/boiler, as well as on the design of power generation equipment to convert excess steam into electricity. The Young Expert will be part of the engineering team on site and report to the Bionexx plant manager. A significant amount of time will also be spent on site, interacting directly with the Operations team. In addition to the young expert’s position at the Bionexx site, the young expert will also have support through regular correspondence with the EWB energy project teams. This role will require a combination of individual effort and teamwork. There will be a structure set up through Bionexx and EWB to provide support to the young expert. The young expert will also need to be a self-starter who can take initiative and move the project forward of his own accord.

Tasks and activities Young Expert

  • Collect the required data for the development of the project (flow diagrams, datasheets, process data, equipment condition, etc.). Evaluate the condition and operating performance of the existing equipment and the existing production process.
  • Evaluate possible ways of improving the efficiency of the existing furnace. Evaluate alternatives, assess them, and rank them. Select the best alternative in collaboration with site engineers and EWB NL engineers
  • Explore alternative uses for the steam from the waste biomass boiler, e.g. micro-scale low-pressure steam turbines, an organic rankine cycle unit, or an off-take agreement with an additional party. The offtake agreement is particularly relevant in case suitable technology to generate power from low-pressure steam is not available/applicable for the Bionexx plant.
  • Explore alternative uses for biomass e.g. for use as a solid biomass fuel for cooking, potentially in collaboration with an NGO distributing clean cookstoves in the area. This is especially relevant if no suitable use of additional steam is found.
  • Develop the engineering design for the selected alternatives. This task will be supported by volunteering engineers located in the Netherlands. Integrate the engineering design in the current production facilities.
  • Present and discuss the findings with the site team and relay back the information to the biomass-to-energy EWB project team. He will be the person connecting the site personnel with the volunteering engineers located in the Netherlands.
  • Project management activities, such as: Developing the planning for the project, defining and prioritising activities, checking data and deliverables for completeness, expediting the tasks related to the completion of the project as required.
  • Provide support to the other projects included in the collaboration between EWB and Bionexx. These projects are aimed to increase the circularity of the Bionexx production plant to make it more sustainable and safer, and they are aligned with the SDG. This supporting task can take 20% of the time.


  • Dutch nationality (required)
  • MSc degree in engineering, preferably process/chemical or mechanical engineering
  • Ideally, 2-3 years of manufacturing experience (e.g. oil & gas, chemical industry, food production, pulp & paper etc.)
  • Ideally, prior experience with or a good understanding and interest in combustion processes and steam/condensate systems
  • Self-starter, highly adaptable, intrinsically motivated
  • Strong communication and presentation skills
  • Project management skills or prior experience working on plant improvement projects would be preferred
  • Great English language skills
  • French speaking would be preferred


YEP Programmes offers local and Dutch young professionals the opportunity to collaborate internationally for 1 to 2 years on SDG related projects while they are supported with professional training & coaching.

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