[Stoves] Not burning biomass to ash in cookstoves for heat (was China and cookstoves )

Nikhil Desai pienergy2008 at gmail.com
Wed Dec 6 14:11:26 MST 2017

Ron, Gordon:

Re: Ron's question - "Note the words below:  “free fuel”, “investments” ,
“fundamental lifecycle problems”.   Anyone able to describe another stove
type that can do those things?  "

The great takeaway from Gordon's post was "

Burning local biomass to ash in cookstoves for heat does not really solve
any fundamental lifecycle problems, no matter how cleanly it is done."

I might say NOT pursuing only the "burning local biomass to ash in
cookstoves for heat" is Gordon't business innovation, for which he adapted
a technical innovation. (Without an ISO Certificate from ARC, I imagine.)

I wrote to Crispin about an "intermediary base". The issue is a stove type
as such but configuring a business around it and in particular, separating
the production and acquisition of primary biomass from combustion for heat
and char or secondary fuels.

There are some examples of this basic organizational innovation. It is
exciting to see that Gordon - and perhaps Inyenyeri, who haven't yet
separated the suppliers of primary biomass from the users of pelletized
fuels - are slicing up the value chains. That way, different elements can
be treated as value propositions in their own right.

It is relevant here that while Gordon's procurement of primary biomass is
"largely designed to improve presently overgrown and unhealthy forests,"
this is a problem of forest management everywhere, including Rwanda's
protected forests. (Yes, been there, in Virunga and Akagera.)

More generally, there is waste biomass from plants and trees everywhere,
land conversion for agriculture and infrastructure just changing the form
of the biomass and supply cycles.

This is what Dr. Karve (cc'd here) referred to earlier.

Good quality hardwood has other more valuable uses than household cooking
fuel. I have seen that happen throughout my life; village people in Gujarat
manage their trees and woods pretty well, producing certain types and
quantities of wood precisely for winter heating use but other types of wood
for timber, furniture. Some high quality furniture wood was priced out of
the market decades ago, though still available for New Delhi new homes.
Furniture itself is no longer an artisanal activity.

What Gordon's work shows is that taking the entire business ecosystem into
consideration helps identify where some profitable opportunities lie. In
turn, those can become bankable businesses. Creating such an organizational
structure for businesses is, to my mind, more important than arguing over
WBT and PM2.5 ERTs.

One way of looking at Gordon's business model is that there is a "fuel
conversion" service. In the large-scale utility business this has been
going on for decades -- countries in the Middle East contract with a
company to build and run a power plant (sometimes combined with a water
desalination  plant) and give them a fee for taking gas  ("free", unpriced)
and delivering electricity, steam, drinking water (pricing of which is for
respective distribution entities).

How to cost the feedstock and convert into electricity was the problem that
much-ballyhooed Husk Power got into.

And there is a parallel in the cooking business. When I was young,
households did not buy prepared foods as much as they do now. There is a
type of dry bread that some eaters are finicky about. So they would send a
household aide to a cook with flour of their own (carefully chosen wheat
type, then ground at home) and get those breads in return in exchange for a
"cooking fee". Large-scale event planning also happened that way.

There is a continuous shift towards "outsourcing the kitchen" all around.
It is not for nothing that commercial cooking has grabbed an increasing
share of cooking market. That is the market that biomass stove
entrepreneurs could go for, because the incentives and capabilities for
change are very clear and the capacity utilization rates much higher. (A
$100 stove used for meager meals for a household of two, with daily or
weekly purchases of ingredients, cannot be rationalized easily. A $1,000
stove that is used at a larger scale and more hours on a steady schedule is
much more marketable.)


On Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 4:56 PM, Ronal W. Larson <rongretlarson at comcast.net>

> List and Nikhil:
> Several more points, not mentioned below,  to lend added weight to
> Gordon’s observations:
> a.  I wrote a few months ago about my visit to Gordon’s operations near
> Silver City New Mexico, which I visited because I had heard (on this list)
> that Gordon was developing a TLUD with continuous feed.   I liked what I
> saw - and still don’t know of anything similar.  I also saw many dozens of
> of different types of batch operated TLUD stoves.  His are NOT new thoughts.
> b.   Gordon and his crew have operated TLUDs also in Mexico.   Nikhil
> recently chastised GACC and EPA for not operating in Puerto Rico, whereas
> they had in Haiti.  It would have made no sense to do our type of stove
> working Puerto Rico - as its annual family income (although last in the US)
> is above $20k.  They long ago gave up wood in favor of cooking with
> electricity and fuel oils.   Gordon is describing a cooking system that
> would work in all these countries - for the good of our environment - and
> at a cost savings.
> c.   Gordon doesn’t mention that his fuel is largely designed to improve
> presently overgrown and unhealthy forests.   A huge problem in Colorado and
> much of the US.  Rwanda not that, but Rwanda can also benefit.
> d.   Note the words below: * “free fuel”, “investments” ,   “fundamental
> lifecycle problems”.*   Anyone able to describe another stove type that
> can do those things?
> Ron
> On Dec 4, 2017, at 10:28 AM, Gordon West <gordon.west at rtnewmexico.com>
> wrote:
> I want to support Ron in his point and to provide a scenario to help to
> explain it. We are a relatively new ‘stoves’ R&D company and manufacturer
> operating in the U.S. Our business plan is not directly relevant to the
> markets that are the major focus of this list, but there are some
> significant developments in our world carrying what should be a disruptive
> lesson for biomass cooking strategies.
> The basic lesson, which we are creating a business model for, is this: the
> biochar that is produced from our TLUD appliances is worth many times more
> that the biomass feedstock going in. This is true on a triple-bottom-line
> basis, looking at direct economics, social benefits, and environmental
> benefits - note that global economic systems generally acknowledge only
> only transactions involving sale for currency as “making money” even though
> the other non-monetized benefits result in greater lifecycle economic good
> than the direct sales do.
> First let me make the distinction between fuel and feedstock - this is a
> very important point. Fuel is burned for energy; feedstock is used to make
> other products. In our TLUD process, biomass is always feedstock, from
> which is produced char and a flammable gas (a fuel).
> One problem with micro-production of biochar (cookstoves and heaters in
> households) is that the char does not have enough value to cover the cost
> of aggregation and sale to existing markets - and existing markets are
> poorly developed, partly because of a lack of supply. Our solution is to
> establish community scale biochar+heat systems that acquire local biomass
> for feedstock, process it into char and heat, use the heat to dry more
> incoming biomass, and densify it into pellet or briquet feedstock. The
> densified and bagged feedstock can then be distributed to micro-producers
> to make heat for cooking or other uses while making more char. We plan to
> give the micro-producers *free dried and densified feedstock* in trade
> for their char. “We”, in this case, will be a regional biochar cooperative
> that will handle technology distribution and operation, biomass processing
> and feedstock distribution, and biochar aggregation and marketing.
> This approach solves many problems - the households get free feedstock,
> saving significant amounts of time and money; the feedstock is of a much
> higher quality - it is dry and consistent and dense, making stove operation
> safer and better; the char is aggregated into a marketable form; carbon is
> sequestered; adding CO2 to the atmosphere is avoided; soils and biomass
> productivity is enhanced; and water is saved. There are many more benefits,
> but those are some top examples.
> In the U.S. we have the numbers to show that we can make a business out of
> this approach. In more distressed areas, governments and NGOs, who have
> more of an interest in the non-monetized triple-bottom-line benefits, could
> set up the core biochar+heat facilities to produce free feedstock for
> micro-producers and manage the char collection. The subsidies to do this
> would actually be long-term investments, and not bandaids like so many
> ‘help for the poor’ efforts are.
> Burning local biomass to ash in cookstoves for heat does not really solve
> any fundamental lifecycle problems, no matter how cleanly it is done.
> Gordon West
> The Trollworks
> 503 N. “E” Street
> Silver City, NM 88061
> 575-537-3689 <(575)%20537-3689>
> *An entrepreneur sees problems as the seeds of opportunity.*
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