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Biomass boiler for reduced carbon emissions and more jobs

Carbon emissions have been on the rise globally due to increased use of energy sources.

The emissions are unfriendly to the environment in industrial production and other human activities, and thus leading to global warming and destruction of the ozone layer, among other negative effects.

It is on this backdrop that industries in both developing and developed world are switching to eco-friendly energies as they seek to join the global campaign of reducing carbon emissions.

One such industry is the Morogoro-based Tanzania Tobacco Processors Limited (TTPL) which plans to convert its heavy furnace oil (HFO)-fired boiler to biomass by June, next year, according to its Engineering Director Henry Lambert.

The biomass boiler would be delivered in Tanzania by mid-December, this year whereas installation and commissioning is expected by June, 2015.
At the processing plant, the boiler is used for steaming and drying of tobacco leaves.

“The conversion from HFO to biomass is in line with TTPL and its major shareholder, the American based Universal Leaf Inc’s.

Environmental policy to reduce its carbon footprint,” Lambert said in an interview.

Not only would the plant reduce emissions but it would create more jobs and significantly cut down costs that TTPL has been incurring to purchase diesel to run the current boiler.

“The cost of purchasing and installing the biomass boiler is $2 million dollars while we are currently using the same amount just to buy fuel per annum.

“We could have used natural gas to operate the boiler but unfortunatelythere is no appropriate infrastructure in place at the moment to transport the energy to Morogoro and remain competitive,” the Engineering Director explained.

Lambert holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. He has had over two years’ experience in charge of a department with Biomass boilers in the sugar industry in South Africa.

He has vast experience working with commercial biomass plants having worked in a waste heat boiler in the copper nickel smelting industry and 14 years in charge of a department running coal fired boilers in the tobacco industry in South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania.

“Through biomass we will be able to reduce carbon emissions by 95 per cent while coal could have reduced by 93 per cent,” the engineer explains.

“The data is according to studies which have been conducted by Biomass Energy Centre which is owned and managed by the United Kingdom Forestry Commission”.

According to the director, TTPL will be sourcing wood dust, and thus leveraging advantages from Kilombero Valley Teak Company (KVTC) which produces the energy in excess of 42,000 cubic metres per year and with a capacity of increasing it to 58,000 cubic metres.

“TTPL requires a maximum of 7,000 cubic metres per year. The use of biomass will improve the viability of both TTPL and KVTC as TTPL is purchasing a less expensive fuel and KVTC is selling a further byproduct,” he explained.

“The boiler will have the ability to burn biomass or HFO. When natural gas becomes available a small modification will enable it to burn natural gas.

“To the boiler to operate the fuel has to be in a powder form.  It will have an ability to burn fine biomass such as wood dust, cotton husks rice husks,” he said.

KVTC will form a joint venture with another company namely EB Cochrane to manufacture biomass wood dust from Teak residue obtained from KVTC as a waste produced by the saw mill.

In the process of manufacturing its product (Teak timber for export) KVTC has about 30 per cent waste material such as sawdust, trimmings and off cuts.

The process to produce the biomass will include milling the teak residue into a powder; compress the powder into blocks for transport purposes after which the blocks will then be pulverized into powder at TTPL’s site.

A comparison of a similar biomass boiler operating at Aspen Pharmaceutical Company in South Africa shows that the biomass boiler has lower emission levels of pollutants including Sulfur Dioxide(SO2), Nitrogen Dioxide(NO2), Particulate matter(PM), Carbon Monoxide(CO).

These emission levels show that it is clearly better for the Morogoro environment to have the Biomass boiler than the HFO boiler, according to the Engineering Director.

The reduction is because there are only minor production emissions for biomass whilst oil and coal production require substantial emissions to be produced and transported.

“It is as well better to use the sawmill and forestry waste than let the waste decompose as this produces a substantial methane emission to the environment.

“At the moment the sawmill waste is being burnt which in itself is producing carbon emissions (this has a lesser effect than the methane produced from waste decomposition),” he explains.

The conversion of sawmill waste to coal is less than 100KW (the Biomass Fuel will be dried on site using exhaust waste heat from the boiler) while the extraction, crushing, sizing of the coal for the quantity required is in excess of 1MW.

Regarding supply of wood dust to meet TTPL’s demand for the boiler, Lambert said there is enough biomass fuel to supply TTPL’s requirements five times over while distance to KVTC is 265km.

More jobs will also be created through the transportation of the wood dust from Kilombero to Morogoro and it is expected that 10 trucks will be required each week.

An additional number of jobs will be created for people involved in chopping and compressing the dust.
Not only that, there are only three operators at the TTPL’s HFO boiler but once the biomass plant becomes operational the number will triple to nine workers.

Ali Kilango has been working for the past 15 years operating the boiler with two colleagues. The trio and additional six operators will receive extra training on how to operate the new boiler.

TTPL is a sister company to the Tanzania Leaf Tobacco Company Limited (TLTC), both of which belong a USA based leading tobacco leaf dealer, Universal Leaf Inc.

TTPL has the capacity to process 80 million kilogrammes of tobacco leaves annually.

It employs over 2,500 people, out of whom 300 are on permanent basis and the remaining 2,200 on seasonal basis.


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