Bio4Energy researchers in collaboration with African actors, the Swedish Environment Institute (SEI) and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.Development of clean-burning technology for household cooking and medium-scale electricity production in Sub-Saharan Africa is the focus of a new multiannual project by
In an application for funding to the Swedish Research Council Formas, which has just been granted, they cite the International Energy Agency stating that almost one fifth of the world population still lacks access to electricity. Moreover, indoor air pollution caused by biomass burning for cooking and heating, either using poor appliances or by simply building a fire indoors, cause about two million deaths per year in Southeast Asia and Africa alone.
While great strides have been made by high-profile initiatives such as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, "many uncertainties still exist regarding the performance of different cooking solutions… [and] emissions from these systems and the relation to air pollution and health effects need to be better elucidated", according to the project application.
In practical terms, the Sweden-based researchers propose to map the availability, types and characteristics of locally sourced biomass in a couple of rural communities in Kenya and Rwanda. They also want to develop a modern clean-burning cook stove suitable for individual households and to asses the conditions for setting afoot medium-sized electricity production facilities based on biomass gasification. A pilot study involving 40 individual farming households in Kenya will test an agroforestry solution in which the farmers are to alternate the production of food crops and energy crops for the purpose of improving soil fertility and, ultimately, to increase agricultural yields. The energy crops then should be used to fuel the new power production units, which would be set up on a per-community basis.
The technology for these facilities would be based on a "new innovative design based on downdraft gasification" of biomass, developed by Bio4Energy researchers at Umeå University (UmU).
"The idea is to use local residual products and raw materials. We will use a fraction of them for refinement to fuel. This fuel will be used to produce electricity locally since there is no electricity grid [that covers the entire countryside]. There will be one local factory using simple gasification technology", said Boman, who is an associate professor at UmU.
Finally, the SEI in cooperation with Kenyan actors will conclude the exercise by holding a workshop with local "users, producers, decision-makers, planners and investors". Its results will feed into a feasibility study aimed at assessing the potential for implementation of the technology, including "institutional, economic and social barriers to uptake", according to the project description.
"Deforestation is a big problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. The biomass is used very inefficiently which means a lot must be taken out. This causes enormous health problems and air pollution", Boman said.
"The fundamental research in Bio4Energy on biomass gasification, ash chemistry, particulate emissions and the behaviour of nutrients like phosphorous is of great importance and may be directly applied in this project. The knowledge we build should come to good use. This project shows that it can", he added.
- Written by Anna Strom