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Sustainability-in-Tech : ‘Gasification’ of Waste Tea Powers Factories

The ‘gasification’ of waste tea prunings is being used to both provide free energy for factories in Kenya and to decarbonise the tea sector.

Gasification 

UK-based waste-to-energy company Compact Syngas Solutions (CSS) has developed a ‘gasification’ process which can convert biomass and other feedstocks into synthesis gas (syngas), which can be used to generate heat and power.

Challenges 

In Kenya, where half of the tea drunk in the UK originates from, the tea industry faces challenges including:

– An unreliable and expensive electricity grid. This grid cuts out for an hour a day on average, meaning that tea producers must rely on diesel generators for power and wood for heat. As well as being disruptive, it is not environmentally friendly.

– Fertile soils are needed for tea, yet using fertilisers at scale can be expensive and can also be environmentally unfriendly.

How ‘Gasification’ Technology Can Help 

The ‘Micro-Hub’ modular gasification system from CSS can provide the following solutions to the above-mentioned challenges in the tea industry by:

– Being able to run 24/7, thereby addressing the outages that cause the disruption and the need for diesel generators, and matching the peak demand of tea factories.

– Generating energy from waste products, such as biomass like waste wood, tea cuttings, and other selected non-recyclable materials. Also, the power and hydrogen produced from biogenic feedstock has lower CO2 emission which, coupled with CSS carbon capture technology, means the Micro-Hub is carbon neutral. This can make tea production greener and help with the decarbonisation of the tea industry.

– Economic benefits/cost savings, i.e. the payback for a Micro-Hub can be as low as 2.7 years.

– Scalability and the ability to tailor to the user’s energy requirements, e.g. as and when demand grows, more modular plants (Micro-Hubs) can be added.

– Transportation and fertiliser production opportunities resulting from the green hydrogen from syngas production (syngas is a mix of hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide and monoxide).

– Increased tea yields (up to 23 per cent), increased fertiliser use efficiency, and better drought resilience.

Job Creation Too 

The 500kWh plant Micro-Hubs that produce the green energy will also reportedly create jobs for up to 10 skilled technical and operational workers. This could add up to 300 new jobs in Kenya within the first five years.

Plans To Expand 

Plans are already in place (pending proven success in Kenya) to expand the green energy Micro-Hubs to Malawi, Uganda, South Africa and, perhaps, across the world.

What Does This Mean For Your Organisation? 

For tea producers in Kenya, a major challenge is the unreliable power grid. Also, the industry needs to decarbonise. Having a mini, modular, 24/7 power/energy generator on hand that runs on tea plant cuttings (and other biomaterials) can, therefore, meet these challenges and provide many other benefits.

For example, essentially free green energy that meets tea factory demand will help to decarbonise the tea industry and improve efficiency and productivity. The mini power hubs may also provide the added benefit of new job creation in an exciting new field. This story is an example of how technology can be used in a way that benefits an industry, a country, and the world in terms of carbon emission reduction, economic advancement, and the scalability of this system and its benefits.