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Briquette market boosts briquette machine in Uganda

Briquettes are an alternative fuel source that is currently gaining popularity in Uganda, which have also been successfully integrated into the economy in other developing countries such as China and Thailand. Briquettes are composed of commonly found organic household waste, such as peanut shells, banana peels, corn husks, sawdust etc. and are compressed either by hand or by briquette machine into small dense products that can be used instead of charcoal and excess amounts of wood harvested from nearby forests.

1. Briquettes and their Potential 
Biomass briquettes are a form of solid fuel that can be burned for energy. They are created by compacting loose biomass residues into solid blocks that can replace fossil fuels, charcoal and natural firewood for domestic and institutional cooking and industrial heating processes. Briquettes have the potential to be a source of renewable energy if they are made from sustainably harvested biomass or waste agricultural residues. Crops grown in Uganda such as maize, cereals, roots, cane sugar and coffee all produce residues that are suitable for briquetting as does dried organic municipal solid waste (MSW). Data provided by the Ugandan government indicates that 1.2 million tonnes of agricultural wastes are available each year and an additional 1,500 tonnes of MSW are estimated to be produced in the capital city Kampala daily. These two sources combined provide a theoretical limit which indicates that at most 6% of the country’s total wood consumption and up to 50% of the charcoal trade could be replaced by briquettes from waste. Nevertheless practical limitations such as seasonal variations, competing uses and collection significantly lower the amount of raw material available for commercial opportunities. Hence, briquettes alone will not have the potential to fully address the approaching biomass crisis in Uganda, however they will certainly be part of the solution and there is large scope for growth from an industry that is starting from a very low base.  

ZBJ-CY Briquette Machine Making Briquettes
Link to ZBJ-CY Briquette Machine

2. A Commercial Case for Briquette Businesses 
The availability of cheap (and often free) firewood and charcoal has been part of the reason why such biomass has prevailed as the dominant source for energy in developing countries. However, in recent years Uganda has faced significant increases in charcoal prices. In 2008, the average price of a 40 kg charcoal sack was USh15,000 (US$6) and during 2009 it rose to USh25,000 (US$10), an increase of 66% in just twelve months. Prices increased substantially again in 2011, with the cost of a sack in the capital Kampala reaching USh60,000 (US$24). Meanwhile, 4 pieces of firewood (which is estimated to substitute 3.3 kg of charcoal) were sold for Ush2,000 (US$0.8). Research by the Uganda LPG Association expects Ush80,000 (US$33) of charcoal to last 2 weeks, whereas Ush80,000 of LPG would last for between 4 to 10 weeks, depending on the family size and cooking frequency. For the purpose of comparison, the assumption that briquettes can replace charcoal weight for weight means that Ush80,000 could last for between 2 and 4 weeks. These kinds of price trends are beginning to make an economic case for briquettes which can cost between Ush32,000 (US$13) and Ush40,000 (US$16) for a similar 40 kg sack and often last longer than traditional charcoal. As of December 2011, a Kenya based briquette company, Chardust Ltd, estimate a minimum charcoal price of US$0.2 (sold by the sack at the point of delivery to urban wholesalers) as a pre-condition for the financial viability of a briquette venture in an East African setting. Worldwide, many different types of briquettes exist for a variety of applications. In industrialised countries, briquettes are commonly used as a fuel in industrial boilers and biomass cogeneration plants. In East Africa, where biomass dominates the domestic energy market, briquetting technology is gaining momentum particularly as wood resources become scarcer and the price of regular charcoal increases. Although they can come in an assortment of shapes and sizes, there are two main types; carbonised and non-carbonised.

3. Briquette Markets 
Carbonised briquettes can act as a replacement for charcoal for domestic and institutional cooking and heating, where they are favoured for their near-smokeless use. In comparison to charcoal, they generally burn for longer and have a more consistent heat output, which is preferred by certain market segments such as restaurants, hospitals and schools. Poultry farming is a large industry in Uganda and smokeless, longer burning briquettes are also well suited to heating cages overnight when temperatures are low as a cheaper alternative to electric heating lamps. If the price of a briquette is competitive to charcoal, then domestic users among rural populations as well as the urban and peri-urban poor can adopt  them to replace charcoal for cooking. In terms of burning characteristics, households and institutions have similar requirements as both require the fuel for cooking. The size and shape however may be different because institutions will typically have larger stoves. Non-carbonised briquettes on the other hand serve as a replacement to natural firewood and raw biomass fuel. They offer greater energy per unit weight than wood or raw biomass but release as much smoke. Consequently these are more appropriate for industrial processes or institutions where emissions can be controlled. They can also be offered as a replacement fuel among rural populations where firewood is still dominant. Further commercial processes such as crop drying, tea drying, tobacco curing, ceramics/brick firing can also make use of briquettes.

4. Biomass for Briquettes 
Briquettes can be made out of any biomass material, although the choice of feedstock can determine its heating potential as a fuel. The available biomass resource consists primarily of: 
• Wood 
• Agricultural Waste (field residues and process residues) 
• Animal Manure 
• Municipal Solid Waste (Household and Food Processing Wastes) 
While wood from trees constitutes the greatest amount of biomass stock available in Uganda and consequently the most used form of biomass (including its use for charcoal), crop residues are also utilised and are receiving increased attention as awareness of the unsustainablility of the wood and charcoal trades grows. Table 1 highlights  the most widely available residues in Uganda, of which up to 1.2 million tons are estimated to be available each year. Animal manure results in a briquette with a low calorifc value, and so is normally used to add bulk to other woody material, however this is rarely done and the scattering of livestock in rural Uganda makes collection on a commercial scale difficult. The use of dried organic municipal solid waste (MSW) offers potential for briquetting purposes and pilot projects have been carried out in Rwanda but this resource remains largely untapped in Uganda. In 2010 the Uganda Investment Authority put forward investment proposals for a 70 tonne per day manufacturing plant for briquettes made from MSW collected from households and surrounding markets in Kampala, of which it estimates 1,500 tonnes are produced daily.   
Another key opportunity is the recycling of charcoal fines, small particles of charcoal lost during retail and distribution, estimated at 10-15% of charcoal produced, equating to at least 70,000 tonnes yearly. This is a popular feedstock for current small scale briquette producers as it can be collected locally, cheaply and has already been processed (raw biomass turned to char), making it the most economically viable resource for briquetting. It does however create an unsustainable dependance on the charcoal trade.       

5. Impact of the Developing Energy Enterprises Programme (DEEP) 
Employment 
Increasing employment through the energy sector is a key aim of DEEP and in September 2011 the number of people employed full-time by a DEEP briquette business ranged from 1 to 3 people, with a maximum of 5 additional casual workers. The average of number of employees (both casual and permanent) is 1.9 employees. This  is an increase from an average of 1.5 employees in June 2010.  
 
Beneficiaries 
When assessing the increase in access to energy for the local populations, the cumulative impact of DEEP briquette entrepreneurs in Uganda amounts to over 3,000 beneficiaries. The number of beneficiaries is calculated based on factors such as the average number of people per household (who will benefit from the purchase of the briquettes) and the longevity of the briquettes. This does, however, assume that briquettes are used exclusively by these households. In reality it is noted that households often use a mix of briquettes, wood and charcoal so briquettes may provide partial fuel substitution for a much larger number of households. Moreover, some customers are restaurants, roadside food vendors, poultry farmers and others making calculation of beneficiaries a difficult task.   
 
Environmental Impact 
The environmental impact can be estimated if making the assumption that briquettes are directly replacing charcoal consumption. As all the briquettes are currently made out of waste material, the greenhouse gas emission savings can be thought  of in terms of the number of trees left standing as a result of replacing firewood and charcoal. It is estimated that each tonne of charcoal requires the felling of 88 medium size trees. Using this figure, the total amount of deforestation avoided by businesses participating in the DEEP programme can be roughly estimated at 17,600 trees annually.  

6. The Uganda Briquette Industry 
Briquette producers in Uganda fall into distinct scales of operation characterised mainly by their type of briquette machine. There are hundreds of micro-scale producers in operation who use primitive equipment and are largely engaged in income supplementing ventures. Most are making briquettes by hand in quantities of less than 2 tonnes per year and for their own consumption as well as to sell in their local neighbourhood. Many of the more enterprising of these, often with support such as from the DEEP programme have purchased manual machines to enable them to produce up to 20 tonnes per year. Motorised machines fabricated by skilled artisans are capable of manufacturing up to 200 tonnes of briquettes per year. This is a typical entry point for entrepreneurs to enter the market with powered machinery that they can purchase locally.

While a few businesses of this size operate within the DEEP programme in Kenya (where further advancements have been made in local machine fabrication) there are not any DEEP entrepreneurs at this scale yet in Uganda, however a few other ventures have known to be started over the last year as the commercial potential for briquettes is starting to be realised. However, this middle-scale of production appears to face the most challenges; not having the investment to progress to using imported equipment  and unable to produce enough output to justify some of the key production and supply chain processes such as transportation, carbonisation and accelerated drying. To get production to multiple thousands of tonnes per year, imported machinery is required. This represents a big step up in investment and so far Kampala Jellitone Suppliers is the only company operating at this level in Uganda. A few others of this scale are operating around East Africa and profiles of these businesses are included later in the chapter. These larger businesses are each operating quite different business models, suggesting that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model is not an option. Varying availability of feedstocks, differing markets and unique country economic conditions mean that a company of this size must explore models that will work in its local context.   
 
An important note is that almost all of the 2,000 tonnes per year businesses in East Africa have benefited from grant funding to get them started and 3 out of the 4 largest have been set up by foreign participants. They also all entered the market at this scale of operation.   In 2010 the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) put forward investment proposals for a 70-tonne per day (20,000 tonnes per year) manufacturing plant for briquettes made from municipal solid waste collected from households and surrounding markets in Kampala. At the time of writing, the UIA were unable to comment on the status of this tendor, however their business plan analysis does suggest that there is potential for one industrial scale briquette plant to operate in Kampala. The supply and distribution models of businesses operating at each level of production differ, as do the challenges faced by each and these are described in more detail in chapter 4. The following case studies give an insight into some of the people working in these different sized briquette businesses.   

7. Briquette for the common people of Uganda 
Betty Ikalany, a Ugandan social worker and entrepreneur, believes her budding community-based, fuel briquette-making enterprise can generate income and also help families save money. An additional but important benefit is that fuel briquettes reduce demand for unsustainably harvested wood and charcoal. For Betty, briquettes are clearly the triple bottom line approach to solving multiple problems. “Fuel briquettes are a no-brainer. They provide income, protect the environment, and improve public health. What is there not to like?” she asks. Mrs. Ikalany says her biggest challenge is not having the appropriate briquette-making machines. As a result, she is presently obliged to mold the briquettes by hand. Such a challenge clearly slows productivity and does not enable her to produce the briquettes on a scale large enough to acquire sufficient financial capital. Despite the challenges, Betty cites her greatest success as managing to convince people in the neighborhoods and in the markets that charcoal briquettes are cheaper, cleaner and efficient. She is also enthusiastic about being able to attract young women and some boys to work with her. Betty looks forward for continued momentum and spreading charcoal briquettes and sustainable development throughout Uganda.

As one of the earliest and largest manufacturers of biomass briquette machine in China, KMEC provides all kinds of briquette machine with competitive price and superior service. We sincerely welcome customers to consult, negotiate and order!

Resource: GVEP (Global Village Energy Partnership) Internatioal

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Kenya, one of African countries, is a good model for briquette business. Hereunder is a piece of news excerpt from GVEP International Org. Following on from this assessment, GVEP has recruited 25 briquette entrepreneurs to work with in Kenya under the CARE2 programme. GVEP intends to build on the recommendations made in this report through the support offered through the programme.

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