Innovation process research

January 26, 2011

Dr. Simon Shackley undertook a number of interviews with renewable energy technology innovators, to understand more about the process – from an idea to a finished (and successfully marketed) product. The visit was during December 2010.

An in-depth case study – the development of the Sampada and Sarai in India will be part of the report. Watch this space for details of its release!

Women’s workshop – Cambodia

December 3, 2010

Today (03.12.2010), we collected data using participatory rural appraisal techniques in a village in Siem Reap District. Issues relating to household energy, cooking related tasks, stove appraisal and household concerns were discussed.

Women participating in the workshop, Cambodia. 03.12.2010

The image below shows the output from an exercise to determine labour resources used for cooking related tasks – cooking, gathering wood and chopping wood. In this particular village, all the ladies present used firewood which the family gathered themselves. No charcoal or other fuels were used.

PRA output, women's workshop, Cambodia 03.12.2010

What is smoke?

December 2, 2010

According to an online dictionary (, smoke is “the gaseous products of burning materials especially of organic origin made visible by the presence of small particles of carbon” and steam is “a vapor arising from a heated substance”.

Steam is often resultant from wet feedstock, although wet biomass can also lead to other emissions.

A traditional stove. India 2010

In relation to cook stoves, emission measurements sometimes cover smoke, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide. These can be measured by a smoke density metre (i.e optical) and flue gas analyser (electrochemical or similar). Other harmful substances including PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 micrometres) or 3.5 or 10 for example are also commonly measured by specialist devices (i.e electron microscope).
Other emissions from burning can include GHGs (methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide), VOCs, NO/NO2, and other sulphates.

Gases chosen to be analysed are commonly those which are most harmful to health or are indicative of other harmful substances. There is not necessarily a link between emissions and efficiency (i.e thermal efficiency or fuel efficiency) – more on this later.

Analysis should be undertaken for the whole cooking cycle as emissions can change. Also lighter substances need to be taken into account (resin / rubber for example will produce high and noxious emissions), and also it should be noted that once pots are introduced into trials, the condensing smoke / steam can produce more visible emissions, although the actual emissions may not be changing.

Gasses can be ‘flared off’ from cook stoves, for example in a gasification stove. However more generally smoke and other emissions are produced with inefficient combustion, so increasing the efficiency of combustion (i.e by adding a grate to a traditional stove, which leads to increased oxygen supply) can be a simple way of reducing emissions from a stove.

Although it is outside the remit of this project we think that emissions measurements are critical to effectively analyse the potential for deployment of any stove type. A stove which has emissions higher than the baseline stove should never be considered.

Biochar workshop Cambodia – a success!

November 30, 2010

The workshop held 22-23 November 2010 in Siem Reap Cambodia was a huge success. The proceedings are available for download from the workshop page:

Thanks to all who attended, it was a great event with lively discussion and interesting presentations.

Biochar: Production & Use, Cambodia 22.11.2010. Picture by Vichida Tan

Meeting programme announced 22-23 Nov 2010

November 17, 2010

Monday 22nd November
08:30 Registration
09:00 Welcome and introductions
09:30 Biochar for poverty alleviation – global perspective (S.Carter, UKBRC)
10:30 Tea break
11:00 Guest presentation (Biochar in an integrated farming system producing food and fuel with a negative carbon footprint – Prof Duong Nguyen Khang)
11:45 Guest presentation (Advantages of the Belonio Top-lit, Updraft, Forced-air Gasifier in Processing Undensified Biomass – P.Olivier)
12:30 Lunch and stove demonstration
13:30 Guest presentation (Experiences from GERES working on biochar, briquetting and improved charcoal stoves – D. Beritault)
14:15 Guest presentation (Apsara authority – preliminary results from biochar rice trials – Dr Tan Boun Suy)
15:00 Discussion session (biochar potential in Cambodia – feedstocks and production)
15:30 Tea break
16:00 Discussion session (biochar – barriers and policy implications in Cambodia)
17:00 Closing ceremony

Tuesday 23rd November
08:30 Field trip to gasification unit, field trials and stove lab
12:00 End field trip

More information about the meeting can be found:

Biomass Energy Seminar, Geres Cambodia. 04.11.2010

November 5, 2010

This seminar was an extremely informative day, with lots of information about the work of Geres, their successes, and also some of the barriers they encountered during their work. Here is a summary of the day’s proceedings:

Baseline scenario (Iwan Baskoro, Geres)
• 1995, >70% of energy sources in Cambodia were biomass
• 240,000 tons charcoal per year (100,000 tons for Phnom Penh)
• Reductions targeted at users (improve stoves) and producers (improved kilns)

Improved charcoal stove project (Iwan Baskoro, Geres)
• All users save a total >1 million USD annually through fuel savings
• 37,000 units / month are being sold
• >1 million stoves sold by March 2010
• Producers get approximately $431 per month
• Awards won include Ashden Award for sustainable energy, PCIA x2
• 2x cook stove designs; New Lao (designed in Thailand, for urban areas) – better for cooking > 1 hour and Neang Konkrang (a lower cost version for rural areas, best for cooking for shorter amounts of time as rural people do)
• 1x palm sugar design – Vattanak – includes secondary air injection under pot and separate combustion chamber, and elevated chimney.

Challenges and solutions (Iwan Baskoro, Geres)
• Professionalism of artisans – quality control, lack of financial management skills
• Integration with the National Wood Energy Policy, and other relevant policies
• Standardisation of stoves
• Fiscal / non-fiscal incentives to stimulate production and distribution
• Stoves being copied – however this is evidence that the design is good
• Trained stove producers were not always keen to join (the first two trainings were 30% success), so those who were making copycat stoves were found and offered training (these proved to be some of the most successful producers)

Green charcoal (David Beritault, Geres)
• Traditional kiln 6.5kg = 1kg wood, 3 weeks conversion time, inconsistent quality
• Improved Yoshemura kiln 4.5kg = 1kg. Calorific value increased from 26-30 MJ/kg)
• Total 50% improvedmnet
• Move from illegal production to legal production

Char briquettes (Carlo Figa Talamanca, Geres)
• Less ash (more homogenous) and therefore more valuable to make than charcoal, quicker to make
• Waste used includes coconut waste, char from garment factories, mixed organic waste, sugar cane, rice husk, some have to buy but most for free.
• Completely removes need for wood charcoal (therefore 1kg char briquettes saves 6.5kg wood)
• Uses tapioca binder

Biomass supply chain (Mathieu van Rijn, Geres)
• Potential to make 100% renewable wood supply
• Agroforestry options (not competing with land for food production)

Carbon finance (Marion Verles, Geres)
• Project now > 100% financed by C finance – extra used for R&D
• 1st improved cookstove in the world which received carbon finance
• Expect to generate 160,000 tCO2 annually from 2003-2010 (the project was verified in advance by Bureau Veritas in 2007)
• Verefied against the Voluntary Carbon Standard methodology
• Nexus set up – as a consortium of similar NGOs to reduce transaction costs of entering C markets – a difficult, expensive task for Geres (methodology development etc.)

Minister H.E. Suy Sem for ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy
• Renewables are encouraged, as catalysts for rural development
• Geres project is closely supported by the ministry
• Biomass energy being considered includes biogas and biofuels (Jatropha, Palm Oil and Sugar Cane)
• Biomass gasification is being undertaken in Cambodia by organisations including DEDE, Thailand, FONDEM and a host of RE organisations

Anila stove manufacture > 2500

November 2, 2010

Recent communications with Sumuki Associates, Mysore, India – the manufacturer of the Anila stove confirmed that over 2500 units have been produced to date. The engineering operation is equipped with all the equipment for the manufacture of stoves, and is capable of fulfilling bulk orders. Since raw materials have increased in costs since the stove was invented, large orders are required to keep production cost effective (pers comm C.S. Ramaswami).

Guardian response

October 28, 2010

Last week (21st October 2010) the following article “Could barbecues help fight climate change? was published in the Guardian newspaper. Here is our response:

“It is interesting to see the potential for biochar production in the USA although the scale of this is probably relatively insignificant. The production of charcoal is not large in developed countries compared to other fuels, for example in the UK it is 5000 tones per year. Assuming that 80% is C, then that is 0.8 x 5000 = 4000 tonnes C. That compares with an annual emission of c. 165 MTC or 0.0024%. However we do see this technology as having particular relevance, and at a much larger scale in developing countries. Biomass is used as a fuel (for cooking or heating) by over 2.4bn people, the majority in developing regions.

One other issue which is confusing in this article is the comparison of the heat from the production of biochar with burning charcoal, which is likely to be very different – burning the biochar its self is a more comparable heat source.

Biochar can be produced by a variety of technologies from large-scale industrial processes to charring kilns, but biochar production in cook stoves in developing regions, has received special attention for several reasons:
* Stoves can use waste biomass, which can not be burned well in many traditional stove designs.
* It reduces dependency on buying or making charcoal and increases self sufficiency – the biochar produced can also be used as a fuel in charcoal stoves, where required
* Indoor air pollution is reduced, because it is a more complete combustion process which provides benefits in particular for women and children who are typically present during cooking activities
* It is an efficient process, traditional stoves can use 3-6 times more fuel than gasification cook stoves
* The resultant biochar (around 25-30% conversion rate) can be used as a soil amendment, which can potentially create carbon finance

There are however risks and unknowns related to biochar production, the agricultural impacts, and the carbon storage potential, and these topics are currently being discussed in the e-workshop hosted on Hedon by the UK Biochar Research Centre and Appropriate Rural Technology Institue – India:”

National Consultation on Biochar and Carbon Emission Reduction (INDIA)

October 25, 2010

*Organised by: Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI)*

ARTI India

*Supported by: UK Biochar Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, UK*
*The Society of Biochar Initiatives, India*

*Dates: November 22 & 23, 2010*

*Venue: Dr. Manibhai Desai Management Training Center, Bhartiya Agro
Industries Foundation, Dr. Manibhai Desai Nagar, National Highway No.4,
Warje, Pune 411 052. Ph: 020 25231661.*

*Funded by: Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research*

Biochar is a material high in black carbon produced from the thermal
decomposition of biomass through heating in a low- or zero-oxygen
environment and at relatively low temperatures (<700oC) (Lehmann, 2009). Biochar has the potential to address the key challenges to achieving sustainable development: namely, carbon emissions reduction, sustainable agriculture and land-use and waste management. Defining the circumstances and conditions in which biochar meets (or fails to meet) its ambitious aims, is critical in determining the potential role of biochar in the developing

Many scientific and socio-economic questions remain unanswered regarding the cost-effectiveness of biochar as a carbon mitigation option with agronomic benefits, in particular:
· What types of biomass are most suitable for conversion to biochar, using what conversion technologies, and what are the most cost-effective supplies of such biomass (taking account of local / regional competition for biomass and other constraints)?
· What is the permanency of elemental biochar carbon in different
soil types and conditions?
· What is the optimal balance between energy production and
biocharproduction in different contexts and assuming different values
for a tonne of carbon abatement?
· What are the agronomic benefits/disadvantages of biochar for a
range of crops, soil types and growing conditions?
· What explains the beneficial/harmful impacts of biochar upon
agronomic productivity?
· How does biochar addition influence fertiliser use and the fate of
existing organic carbon?
· What are the effects of biochar on N20 and CH4 emissions and on
nutrient run-off?
· What kind of policy initiatives and/or financial mechanisms will
be needed to support biochar production and use, if and where its use proves
to be beneficial?

Several scientists as well as policy researchers have been examining these issues all around the world, including individuals and groups in India. The consultation is aimed at bringing the researchers together on one platform for a broad discussion on the above and other related issues.

The consultation is being conducted as a part of the project Biochar for
Carbon Reduction, Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Management (*BIOCHARM*) funded by APNGCR and supported by UKBRC, UK.

There is no registration fee for the consultation and accommodation and local hospitality will be provided free of cost. The participants have to bear their own travel expenses. Partial travel assistance may be offered in exceptional cases, depending on the availability of the budget. Maximum 50 participants can be accommodated due to logistical limitations, and registration will be on first come, first served basis.

The participants will get an opportunity to give 15-20 min presentation on their own work related to biochar – field research and/or policy research as the case may be, and will be expected to actively participate full time in group discussions over the two days of the consultation. For interested participants, a field visit will be arranged to ARTI’s research station at Phaltan, Dist Satara, to see on-field demonstrations of biochar production techniques being developed by ARTI.

Last Date for Registration: November 1, 2010

Please leave a comment for more information and a registration form.

Press coverage for workshop in India

October 19, 2010


Two cover the workshop (one in Marthi – the local language), and one is a more general piece about ARTI and climate change.