Careers & Education

Making bio-briquettes a Jamaican reality

Alvin Brown

Sunday, July 22, 2012    

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THERE are many economic benefits associated with implementing a biomass briquettes programme in Jamaica, in an effort to provide the island with a cheaper fuel source.

Biomass briquettes (or bio-briquettes) are formed by compressing bio-waste, such as paper and garden waste. When burnt, they give off more heat energy than uncompressed bio-waste, with far less air pollution.

By producing our own energy source — through the use of items such as coconut shells, cocoa shells and newspapers — we stand to create jobs, reduce the impact on the environment of our waste, and improve our waste management.

However, we should not enter into using biomass briquettes lightly, as a careful study of the sources of bio-waste to ascertain which biomass option has the best energy yield is necessary.

Figure 4 shows a proposed flow process for bio-briquette creation while Table 4 shows considerations for bio-briquette setup.

There are a number of considerations since the screw in the screw press machine must be replaced at intervals. This interval is known as the standing time. The standing time has a significant impact on the cost of bio-briquette production.

To guarantee sustainability, we ought to manufacture the bio-briquette presses locally. This allows the skills for repair and maintenance to be readily available and ensures that real technology transfer takes place. This technology must be adapted to our local conditions to allow for a successful roll out as a cheap alternative source.

We often speak of our "burgeoning debt burden". If we are to improve our economic condition, we must increase our productivity and, therefore, we must have cheap energy. Why should we look to another country for fuel when we have the necessary source here?

There are several ways that Jamaica may enter into bio-briquetting. Table 4 has some recommendations. Government could set up briquetting plants, partner with private sector and sell to electricity generating companies.

Alternatively, the Government may wish to encourage the use of bio-briquetting technology by subsidising businesses and training interested persons, as was the case in India.

There are many possible sites that bio-briquette factories could be set up. These include the former Goodyear plant in Morant Bay, St Thomas. Currently, there are many unemployed youth in that area. These youth may become at risk if policies are not implemented to assist them in becoming contributing members of our society.

A small power generation plant could be placed near this factory site to directly feed on the production of these briquettes. In fact, a small industrial estate may be erected that houses small-scale factories. This will ensure that cheap electricity is provided for the manufacture of goods.

Alvin Brown is an instructor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering at the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies. He can be contacted at Alvin.Brown@sta.uwi.edu.

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