Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Optimum Parameters for the Formulation of Charcoal Briquettes Using Bagasse and Clay as Binder

Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Optimum Parameters for the Formulation of Charcoal Briquettes Using Bagasse and Clay as Binder

Article excerpt

Introduction

Energy, which is important for the provision of essential services for humanity such as lighting, heating and cooking, is broadly classified into renewable and non- renewable. The demand for the former which include hydro-power, geothermal, biomass, solar, wind and tidal energy, has been increasing over the years in the developing countries where 1.8 million people in rural and urban centers lack access to commercial energy (UNEP, 2000).

Biomass energy accounts for about 14 % of the total world energy compared to coal (12 %), natural gas (15 %) and electric energy (14 %). In East Africa 84 % of the total energy used by 90 % of the population is derived from biomass sources such as charcoal, firewood, agricultural residues and animal/live stock wastes. Between 1970 and 1994, production and consumption of charcoal doubled and is expected to increase by 5 % up to the year 2010 (WEC, 2003).

In Kenya, biomass energy is cheaper (USD 261 p.a.) than the cost of kerosene (USD 360 p.a.), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, USD 397 p.a.) and electricity (USD p.a. 747). About 2.4 million tones of charcoal which is equivalent to 120,000 ha of woodland is consumed annually (GOK, 2002). This was at an estimated per capita consumption of 156 Kg and 152 Kg of charcoal in the urban and rural areas respectively. According to the rural and urban household energy survey by Mwichabe (1999), about 40 million Gigajoules (GJ) equivalent of energy was derived from farm residues comprising of vegetative materials from diverse agricultural operations and processes.

At this rate of consumption, the traditional sources of biomass energy which include woodlands and shrublands - 37.6 million ha; farmlands and settlements - 9.5 million ha; indigenous forests - 1.2 million ha; and plantation forests - 0.2 million ha are diminishing at an alarming rate of 10 % per annum without replenishment leading to accelerated desertification and increased soil loss caused by devegetation and desertification.

Because of the foregoing scenario, there is need to introduce alternative and improved bio-energy such as charcoal briquettes produced from agricultural and forest-based residues. Charcoal briquettes are any solid biomass charcoal made by thoroughly mixing powdered charcoal (charcoal fines) produced from any organic material with a binder and/or inorganic additives called fillers (Emrich, 1984).

Kenya, which is basically an agro-based economy with agricultural operations and processes contributing over 80 % of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), generates large quantities of agricultural, agri-industrial residues with limited industrial applications. The potential for the exploitation of these residues is enormous due to (a) rising fossil fuel prices (b) their availability in relatively high abundance (c) their availability at almost zero cost and (d) their contribution to environmental protection and conservation (Massaquoi, 1990).

Bagasse is one of the most important factory crop residues in the country. It is the fibrous residue obtained as a by-product when sugarcane is crushed in factories used to a limited extent for the generation of electricity and process heat for internal use. The bulk of bagasse from all factories is considered an environmental hazard and a probable source of factory fires. It is usually difficult to decompose so as to be used as composite manure. Its potential for commercial use as a raw material for the formulation of charcoal briquettes is enormous due to the rapidly growing interest in energy derived from biomass residues and also due to local and global environmental concerns and technological advances. Commercial charcoal briquettes would also supplement charcoal produced from natural and plantation forests.

It is estimated that currently about 1.6 million tones of bagasse is generated annually in Kenya although potentially about 2.6 million tones could be generated. Out of this quantity only 25 % is economically utilized for the generation of process heat for internal use in factory boilers. …

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