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Fueling the reactor AnnaStrom2020Robert Lindgren of Bio4Energy fuels the pilot reactor for biomass gasification. Photo by Bio4Energy© 2020.Scientists in Bio4Energy have taken a decisive step in a multi-actor project to provide sustainable bioenergy solutions for people in some of the least well-off countries in Africa, by designing a pilot installation that will produce energy-rich gas and biochar from pre-treated biomass residues.

The construction of the two-metre tall pilot—which is still a miniature version of what a future commercial-scale gasification reactor would look like—is a collaboration between Bio4Energy researchers at Umeå University and at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Umeå, Sweden.

“The reactor makes us able to close the loop, or construct a total system, of upgrading and using residual biomass products from the agricultural industry”, said project leader This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of the research and development platform Bio4Energy Environment and Nutrient Recycling.

Boman and his colleague and former student This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., of the same R&D platform, have been championing the project since the outset in 2012, and with funding granted in 2015.

The idea is to make use of residual biomass—such as rice husk, bagasse or wood and residues from energy forestry—and turn it into pellets for use as fuel in a basic version of a modern cookstove, to break the chain of unsustainable use of wood from natural forests and to lessen air pollution in some of the world’s poorest countries.

In Rwanda and Kenya, which are target countries in this project, forest cover is steadily reduced from outtake of trees that are not replanted and the wood traditionally used for cooking on a very simple type of stove, known as three-stone fire. This is typically the case in the country side. In the urban and notably peri-urban context, the current fuel for cookstoves is more likely to be charcoal made from wood from natural forests.

In both context, the aim is of the scientists’ project is to work with local actors so as to demonstrate a new type of closed-loop system were residues from agriculture and forestry are turned into electricity or fuel for cooking, as well as to reduce people’s exposure to indoor air pollution that can cause respiratory problems or disease. The Bio4Energy researchers have tested and evaluated several types of cookstove technologies and fuels for the purpose of the project. 

At the base of the venture lies a large research project granted in 2015 by a Swedish national funding agency, the Swedish Research Council Formas, which includes a range of academic actors, institutes and non-governmental organisations. The project has recently been reinforced and expanded by new grants from the Swedish International Development Agency and the research environment Bio4Energy.

“A very important part of the project is to work together with [local and regional] actors to introduce and gain acceptance for these new systems in Kenya and Rwanda. We are doing that now”, along with work to perfect the pilot, according to Boman, who is an associate professor at Umeå University.

For more, see our previous articles on this project 

Clean-burning Cook Stoves, Technology for Local Electricity Production to Be Developed for Africa

Clean-burning Cooking Solutions, Electricity, Being Developed for Africa

In the news

The January-February issue of Bioenergy Insight Magazine carries a feature on this project and its most recent developments. 

Since its launch in 2010, Bioenergy Insight has swiftly built up a reputation for delivering quality news, analysis, market information and technical articles relating to the biomass, biogas and biopower industries.

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