Hand operated briquette press – utilizing waste paper and sawdust

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Firewood dependence for cooking in the developing world has resulted in forests being depleted at a rate of 2.5 to 3% per year. It is here in the poorest parts of the world that villagers spend a good portion of their time gathering wood to cook, heat and make charcoal. To counter this dependence on wood, efforts were made in the early 80’s to come up with alternatives. One such alternative being explored was making fuel briquettes from non-woody biomass for cooking. Dr.Bryant and students at the University of Washington in the USA developed a novel low-cost briquette making process using non-woody agricultural residues, ordinary water and a hand-operated wood press.

“Anyone can make briquettes from their own leaves, grass, straw and paper”

The briquette process was simple and could be established in poor rural communities, requiring little technology and very little money. With a small effort villagers could now create their own fuelwood from agricultural residues. To make a briquette, ordinary leaves, grass and straw would be chopped and mashed into a paste. This paste would then be compressed into round cakes and dried. The resulting briquette would be sold as a fuelwood- and charcoal substitute at the local market. In 1994 the Legacy Foundation, USA, picked up on Bryant’s briquette making process and extended the outreach activities. Today, Legacy Foundation’s training and online media services have spread the briquette technology and process into eleven other countries, such as Haiti, Uganda, Mexico, Nepal, Kenya, Mali and Tanzania. The foundation has also released 8 technical/training manuals on all known aspects of briquette making.

Vuthisa acquired the rights to promote and extend this technology into Southern Africa. The Legacy Foundation have now launched their new Ratchet Press to replace the wooden presses and its now manufactured in South Africa.

 

The Ratchet Press is designed to fold away when being transported and once erected in a few simple steps provides the necessary power to compress sawdust and paper mixed in a wet slurry into medium density fuel briquettes. Using common tools and skills, the Ratchet Press can work for an individual or full time commercial briquette production facility. Though it is compact and portable, it can deliver nearly the same force as their larger Mini Bryant compound level wood press. They have launched 3 Ratchet Press manuals namely; Ratchet Press Construction, -User, and -Marketing manual which explains in detail how to construct (unless an actual press ordered from Vuthisa is preferred) the press, arrange and prepare materials and operate the press successfully.

Watch this demonstration video of our latest Ratchet Press:

Vuthisa have also started manufacturing the Test Briquette Maker (TBM) under license so visit our online shop for prices. Quite a large proportion of people that buy the user manuals never commit themselves to building the actual presses, possibly due to time or money constraints or they lack workshop tools and/or technical know-how. Order this “Press Kit” to get familiarized with the concept behind their hand operated wooden and metal, low-pressure briquetting machines. “Like” our Facebook Fan Page and receive a FREE PDF download link to the “Test Briquette Maker”:

“The Test Briquette Maker can be built for under $125 (USD) and requires almost no maintenance…”

The Test Briquette Maker can be built for under $125 (USD) and requires almost no maintenance, with only basic drilling and welding (10 cm at most) work required. If you’re looking to attract funding to roll out a program using this technology, this press will be most suitable to that end. As mentioned a FREE download link to the “Test Briquette Maker Construction and User Manual” will be supplied with every manual purchased on this site.

Watch this demonstration video of the Test Briquette Maker:

Also visit our Instagram account for more pictures: https://www.instagram.com/vuthisa/

Order the Ratchet press here (minimum order of 2):

For more information on the briquette process and to access their electronic How-To Manuals kindly visit this page:

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Biochar production from Vineyard grape waste

We just concluded a successful 3-day Biochar demonstration on two prominent Vineyards in Stellenbosch, Cape Town. See this video of the kiln in action:

Also see our updates on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vuthisa/

Best results were achieved by bottom-lighting the kiln. We have drawn up a discussion document for applying Biochar to the soil in vineyards and orchards. Contact us to receive a copy or to discuss its merits.

I have been impressed with the Biodynamic farming approach of these two wine estates with their organic farming and incorporating various esoteric concepts.

Herewith some pictures!

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Sneak preview of our new IP

by Kobus Venter

Well done to Troy Manufacturing for again being able to translate our drawings into workable solutions. Most components are laser-cut, but many add-ons are hand made. The quality of the welding is also top class. All components are in direct contact with fire so none will be painted. They all come together to form a single Biochar kiln to be used in the Vuthisa Biochar Initiative, sponsored by the Energy and Environment Partnership Southern and East Africa (EEP-S&EA) fund.

Visit https://vuthisa.com/2013/12/23/the-vuthisa-biochar-initiative/ for updates on the project.

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Interesting observation – charcoal pile

By Kobus Venter

The Vuthisa Biochar Initiative is progressing well thanks to the Energy and Environment Partnership Southern and East Africa funding. EEP-S&EA have partnered with us until July 2015 to fund 50% of our project costs.

We were busy setting up a tent for Biochar storage when I noticed a pile of charcoal “fines” of around 3 tons (under 15 mm diameter) was still there 2 years on. The “fines” was dumped there by us continuously between November 2011 to April 2012.

Biochar_observation

This farm is frequented by cattle, with dung piles littered over it, but no fires have been through it. The area circled in red is the same area in the picture above it – just under 20 months later. The charcoal layer somehow compacted down into the soil and the soil is only reached by digging down 0.5 metres or so.

Another interesting development was the appearance of natural vegetation somehow anchored to the charcoal. See below.

Natural_vegetation_biochar

We have adapted our system to produce quality Biochar now as many of you know.

Kindly subscribe and be informed of our progress.

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Employing aliens to capture carbon

By Kobus Venter

(Extracted from a Green Times article published on 20 February, 2014: http://thegreentimes.co.za/employing-aliens-to-fight-carbon/)

Imagine turning thirsty alien invasive trees into biochar.  Biochar is charcoal created by pyrolysis of biomass. This differs from charcoal only in the sense that its primary use is not for fuel, but for biosequestration or atmospheric carbon capture. If created under specific conditions it can also be suitable as a soil amendment.

The beginnings of biochar

The first attempts at making large volumes of charcoal in ancient times had little to do with creating fuel and more with increasing the fertility of the soil. These soils are known as terra-preta soils, which are fertile, black charcoal-rich soil found in scattered tracts throughout the Amazon basin, dating back 450 to 8,000 B.C.

In the humid tropics most of the nutrients remain in the plant growth. The little organic matter that does reach the forest floor decomposes rapidly. Combined with high rainfall means that most nutrients leache away into the soil unutilised. The terra-preta charcoal, called biochar, attracts certain fungi and microorganisms and allow the charcoal to absorb and retain nutrients that keep the soil fertile for hundreds of years.

micropore structure charcoal biochar

The basis of all charcoal and biochar production is pyrolysis: essentially, breaking wood down into its chemical constituents by heat, with little or no oxygen. Today, popular methods of producing biochar include Top-down open burns, so-called TLUD (Top-lit updraft gasifiers) designs and Closed retorts (whereby feedstock is contained and heated within an enclosed chamber).

The quality of biochar can be informally determined by feel: Good biochar is light and rigid but easily crushed, finely grained, not greasy to the touch, washes off with plain water and lastly has a characteristic metallic ring to it when dropped.

Biochar has a high carbon content (typically over 80%) and adsorption capacity which is a function of the internal surface area. The greater the surface area the higher the absorption capacity and the better biochar will retain moisture and soluble organic matter. Activated carbon however does not make good biochar.

3-drum Biochar Retort

Vuthisa Technologies have developed a retort called the ‘3-drum Biochar Retort’ to make large quantities of biochar in batch type burns. The system comprises of an outer drum containing three 210 L oil drums, serving as the retorts, based on their Trans-Portable Kiln technology.

Lower quality feedstock is loaded into the outer drum and lit. This heat is transferred to the contents of the retorts until carbonised.

Carbon capture

In a world dependent on fossil energy, it is easy to see the carbon capture benefits of biochar as offsets against current and future fossil fuel emissions. Many scientists believe there is already an unsafe excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, this obligates the nations that caused the excess to abate it.

Charcoal has the potential to sequester gigatonnes of atmospheric carbon per annum, making it the most potent engine of atmospheric cleansing we possess. Approximately 8 percent of all atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by plants each year. If just a small proportion of the carbon captured by plants can be pyrolysed and transformed into charcoal, humanity’s prospects will be much brighter, for this will buy us time as we struggle to make the transition to a low emissions economy.

Anything from 3 to 9 tons per hectare of biochar (crushed into a powder form) can be mixed into the soil. Typically the biochar is first inoculated and conditioned with soil microbes and usually first mixed with compost before being placed into the soil.

Benefits of adding biochar to soil

As a soil additive, biochar ground down into powder form and mixed with compost offers numerous potential benefits:

  • Unlike fertilizers, biochar has an extremely long life in soils and is not susceptible to biological decay.
  • Biochar attracts microbes and beneficial fungi (such as mycorrhizae) and holds on to nutrients that are put into the soil.
  • Biochar helps conserve nutrients by storing them within its matrix, making the nutrients available when the crop needs them.
  • Clayey and poorly aggregated soils become less compacted and provide better aeration.
  • Sandy soils acquire additional bulk moisture storage capacity.

Feedstock

The first step in ensuring the successful implementation of the ‘Vuthisa Biochar Initiative’ was to secure the feedstock for the charcoal kilns. Vuthisa Technologies secured a tender from the Government’s Natural Resource Management Programme (NRM), Land User Incentive (LUI) initiative to eradicate Invasive Alien Plant Species (IAPs) within the Sisonke District Municipality, encompassing some 10,000 km2 from Underberg/Ixopo to Kokstad.

The harvesting contract commenced on 1 December 2013 and expires on 31 March, 2016 and in this time period 580 ha of invasive plant species will be harvested and the stumps treated to prevent re-emergence.

Aiming for 25% conversion efficiency

The first goal of the ‘Vuthisa Biochar Initiative’ is to achieve a minimum of 25% wood to biochar conversion efficiency. Current efficiencies of conventional charcoal producing kilns are less than 15%. Using more efficient methods to produce charcoal has the potential to save approximately 100 MtCO2 per year in Sub-Saharan Africa (see here for more information).

As the plant matter decomposes or ferments, predominantly methane gas is released. Venting un-burnt methane into the atmosphere contributes 26 more times to the Greenhouse effect than CO2 alone.  To avoid this Vuthisa will utilise this gas to provide the heat into the retorts and to maintain the biochar forming process within the retorts. They plan to produce 150 tons of Biochar in the next two years and envisage that 20% of this will be bought by fertiliser companies. This could result in at least 30 tons of carbon being sequestered back into the soil.

It is hoped that this project will show at demonstration level that it is profitable to make biochar from forest waste and that it is a viable product.  Other goals include securing additional funding to start biochar trials and fully investigate the agri-commercial development of biochar products for use by subsistence farmers.

A little help from our friends

Vuthisa Technologies secured funding from the Energy and Environment Partnership, Southern and East Africa (EEP-S&EA), sponsored by the Ministry of Finland to start their demonstration project using their internally developed biochar kilns. The project will be implemented over a 20-month period. Now the dilemma is that they have to raise 50% of the capital for the venture, which up to this point has been self-funded.

If you are keen to support, please go here.

Broadly stated the needs list includes:

  1. Hippo Water Rollers and Portable Toilets
  2. Cooking Stoves
  3. Protective Clothing
  4. Tools & Equipment
  5. Biochar Kilns (pictured below)
  6. Environmental Impact Assessment consultancy cost
  7. For the full list, please click here.IMG_1640

 

Please read more at:

Make contact with them on:

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My website in review (2013)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 36,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The Vuthisa Biochar Initiative

By Kobus Venter

Welcome to the ‘Vuthisa Biochar Initiative’ blog page. On this page you will learn more about our project and what we hope to achieve. The project officially kicked off in December 2013.

The project actually has many outcomes, but the primary goals are:

Create Employment – Up to 30 workers will be employed in year one. Unemployment is rife (>50%) in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal especially with a minimum wage now being introduced for farm workers. The feedstock for the Biochar project will be secured by ‘Vuthisa Charcoal Projects’ through a contract signed with the Department of Environmental Affairs, Natural Resource Management Programme, that pays the wages of our workers.
GroupPhotoEPWP
Eradicate Invasive Alien Plant Species and restore the Natural Biodiversity of the land – We intend to clear over 300 hectares of Wattle in this area and restore the land back to virgin grassland. The main culprit being Acacia mearnsii (Black Wattle) and Acacia decurrens (Green Wattle). Unmanaged Wattles in KwaZulu-Natal has now reached more than 300,000 hectares in extent, according to the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) report commissioned by Water Affairs, 2010. Left untouched, this alien vegetation would spread at an average rate of one percent a year, threatening water and food security.  Concerted efforts are being made to prevent the further spread of these invasives especially in water catchment areas and it is estimated that R 34 Billion ($ 3.4 Billion) will have to be made available over the next 25 years to stop this spread.

SAM_0747

Increase streamflows and reduce erosion – The Wattle trees spreads vigorously through the seed it puts out and these typically germinate in or near river systems, reducing filtration into underground aquafirs and streamflows. At the onset of the infestation when the trees are young, only 500 mm of water is preserved within a typical annual rainfall area of 1200 mm. As the invasives spread, after 24 years only 25% of the entire potential water yield namely 300 mm of water will become part of water supply into the local catchment.

WfW_Logo

Develop Emission Reducing Biochar Kilns and reduce greenhouse gas emissionsAcacia mearnsii is a hardwood species and makes excellent charcoal.  Conventional pyrolysing tecnologies in South Africa however are less than 20% efficient.  Our first goal is to achieve a minimum of 25% wood to biochar conversion efficiency. Using more efficient methods to produce charcoal (or Biochar) has the potential to save about 100 MtCO2 per year in Sub-Saharan Africa (See http://bit.ly/I0KIXl).  CO2 production from Emission Reducing kilns has not been quantified, but a 5 to 10% reduction in GHG’s is expected. We plan to produce 150 tons of Biochar in the next two years and we expect that 20% of this will be bought indirectly by fertiliser companies which could result in at least 30 tons of carbon being sequestered back into the soil.

Kiln_Complete

Develop Biochar Eco-fertilisersBiochar as a soil amendment will allow rural folk to improve their subsistence agriculture. Mixing biochar with soil or a good active organic compost before it goes in the soil will soak up its full compliment of water, nutrients and microbes so that it can make those available immediately to the plants as soon as it is added to the soil. Ultimate concentrations after some time of repeated applications of these eco-fertilisers (chemical free) will work up to about 8 to 10% biochar by weight of the soil content.

biochar trials

See this Google Earth map below of precise location of the clearing operation:

What is Biochar?Biochar is charcoal mixed with compost and applied to the soil as a soil amendment and has the same benefit to plants than chemical fertelizers. The act of burying the Biochar in the soil, removes carbon from the air (CO2) and sequesters carbon into the soil for thousands of years and prevents the release of Methane from harvested plant material into the atmosphere. Methane is a key fuel component to providing the heat into the retorts and in the Biochar forming process.  Venting un-burnt Methane into the atmosphere contributes 26 more times to the greenhouse effect than CO2 alone.  For more information on biochar, feel free to research the many references to Biochar on Google or read more on our Biochar web page: https://vuthisa.com/biochar/
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Harvested IAPs ready to be charred

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Biochar Retorts being primed for firing in Guatemala

Please donate to the project.

The Energy and Environment Partnership fund for Southern and East Africa (EEP-S&EA) have kindly stood up and agreed to fund 50% of the Project Management fees, Site Preparation, Tools and equipment and Administration fees. The EEP Programme in Southern and East Africa is jointly funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland (lead donor), The Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). For further information visit: http://eepafrica.org/ or http://eepafrica.org/portfolio-item/vuthisa-biochar-initiative/#tab-id-1

EEP_Logo2EEP_Biochar

To donate to the project please get in touch with us.  We offer branding opportunities on Hippo Water Rollers, send out T-shirts and give shout outs on Social Media. Contact us here to find out more.

We accept SWIFT payments whereby money is wired into our project bank account.  Please approach your local bank’s FOREX department and request the appropriate procedure and instructions to follow to expedite this type of payment.

Contact us here for our bank details.

Donate via PayPal (pay with a credit card):

Please Donate

 

Donate via EFT:

PayR100

PayR1,000

PayR2,000

PayR5,000

PayR10,000

Please indicate in your bank reference which activity you wish to sponsor.

What will the money be used for?

We will have the following expenditures:

1 –  Water and Sanitation

Instead of purchasing large stationary water tanks to supply drinking water from rainwater harvesting, we thought it would be cool to use Hippo Water Rollers and collect water from the nearby fresh water vlei. Each water roller can hold 90 litres of water. This presents branding opportunities for companies out there, by having their name or logo printed on each Hippo Roller. Visit the website for Hippo Water Rollers here for more information: http://www.hipporoller.org/ The cost of each Hippo Roller is R 1,500 ($ 136) including delivery to the site. We require a minimum of 4 Rollers and a total of R 6000 (± $ 544).

The cost of purchasing and delivering 2 x Portable toilets to the site is R 14,000 (± $ 1,272), and we’ll pay for the fortnightly servicing of the units.

[0%] of “Water and Sanitation” funded to date.

Reviewed on: 20 January, 2015

2 – Cooking Stoves

The cooking stoves we require are special portable wood- and charcoal fuel saving stoves and because we are re-sellers of this product we can provide them at cost to our workers. We require 8 of these stoves to offer the staff with a means to cook their food safely or to boil water. More information here: https://vuthisa.com/news/stovetec/
The cost of delivering 8 stoves to the site is R 3,880 (± $ 352).

[0%] of “Cooking Stoves” funded to date.

Reviewed on: 20 January, 2015

3 – Protective Clothing

To ensure our workers are operating safely and are fully kitted out, we need to supply them with adequate protective clothing (PPE). These include Two-piece overalls, T-shirts, Rainsuits, Gloves, Chainsaw operator safety gear, Goggles and Masks. The most recent quotation revealed that we need R 22,560 (± $ 2,051).

[60%] of “Protective Clothing” funded to date.

Reviewed on: 20 January, 2015

4 – Tools & Equipment

The basic tools and equipment required for the project include Hatchets, Loppers, Knapsack sprayers, Combi-cans, First-aid kits, a Fire extinguisher and Spades. This will cost R 14,500 (± $ 1,318). We have already paid for 2 chainsaws worth R 11,300 (± $ 1,027).

[65%] of “Tools and Equipment” funded to date.

Reviewed on: 20 January, 2015

5 – Biochar Kilns

The specialized Biochar kilns have been developed over many years and are professionally constructed by a light engineering company in Mkondeni, Pietermaritzburg. The cost of each kiln ex-factory is R 9,000 (± $ 886) and we require 3 to start off with for a total of 27,000 ($ 2,658).

[18.5%] of “Biochar Kilns” funded to date.

Reviewed on: 20 January, 2015

6 – Environmental Impact Assessment consultancy cost

The planned activities for the biochar project and charcoal activities will require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and an Atmospheric Emission License (AEL).  The entire process is expected to take 11 months to complete.  Cost: R 329,543.22 ($ 32,954) including VAT.

[57%] of “EIA” funded to date.

Reviewed on: 20 January, 2015

When everything is tallied up we need R 87,940 (± $ 7,995) PLUS R 164,771.61 (± $ 14,979) for the EIA and AEL.  The EIA and AEL will be funded from biochar sales, but any donation towards this cost would be very much appreciated.

[33%] of “Vuthisa Biochar Initiative” funded to date.

Reviewed on: 20 January, 2015

In conclusion we would like to thank everyone for their support and that we will do everything in our power to meet the goals of the project.

Or for more information contact us here: https://vuthisa.com/contact-us/

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