Review of Technologies for the Production and Use of Charcoal

Publication Type Report
Year 2005
Organization Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory
Primary Author Kammen, Daniel M.
Author Lew, Debra J.
Abstract Charcoal constitutes the primary urban fuel in most of Africa and is a major source of income and environmental degradation in rural areas. The production, transport and combustion of charcoal constitutes a critical energy and economic cycle in the economies of many developing nations. Far from decreasing, the use of charcoal has remained constant or grown in many countries. Because of this, it is critical to assess and to develop long-range charcoal policies for African and other developing nations. In this paper, we review the current status of biomass harvesting and transport for charcoal production, efficiency of pyrolysis in various kilns as well as efficiency in end-user application, emissions of trace gases, and the relative economics of charcoal and its fuel substitutes. We compare the efficiencies of over thirty kilns with dry weight yield efficiencies ranging from 12 to over 40% along with production volumes up to 13 tonnes. We also discuss the transport and marketing economics for a range of urban African charcoal markets. The analysis of these factors highlights the importance of matching the charcoal production technology, batch size, and marketing to the available resource and the end-user population. This analysis is critical to the design of sensible biomass energy policies at the national and international aid and donor level.
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