Faecal sludge to fuel – two research projects led by Eawag-Sandec (FaME and SEEK) - Senegal, Ghana, Uganda

  • Moritz
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Faecal sludge to fuel – two research projects led by Eawag-Sandec (FaME and SEEK) - Senegal, Ghana, Uganda

In the name of the whole project team, I would like to introduce you to the Faecal Management Enterprises (FaME) project. (this is one of four sanitation research projects funded under the SPLASH program, see here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/97-ena...-cameroon-mozambique )

It would be great to discuss our past, ongoing and future research activities and challenges within the SuSanA forum. As a first step, I would like to provide you with further information on the activities of the project and our results. It would be great to benefit from your expertise.

I am sure that most of you will be interested in the results of the pilot kiln studies and the financial flow model. As we are in the final month of the project we will be able to provide more details on these activities soon.

Research consortium: Eawag/Sandec (lead), Hydrophil iC, Waste Enterprises Ltd., Makerere University, University Cheikh Anta Diop Dakar and National Water and Sanitation Utility of Senegal (ONAS).

Developing country where the research takes place: Dakar, Senegal; Kampala, Uganda; Accra, Ghana.

Short description of the project:

Onsite sanitation technologies are the predominant sanitation technologies for the urban population in Sub-Saharan Africa. These technologies ask for collection, transport, treatment and disposal of the faecal sludge (FS) once they become full. Unfortunately, the region is characteristics by poorly designed and operated onsite sanitation technologies, poor and unaffordable FS collection and transport services, and dysfunctional or inexistent FS treatment infrastructure. Results are disposal of untreated or insufficiently treated FS into the urban environment, jeopardizing public and environmental health.

The FaME consortium believes one major reason for these shortcomings is the lack of economic incentives for stakeholders along the FS service chain. Providing value chains capturing the resources of FS provides a financial driver to enhance services at every step in the FS service chain. The FaME "philosophy" has been presented in the Sandec-produced video "Faecal Sludge Management in Sub-Saharan Africa: Enhancing the value chain", one of the most viewed SuSanA forum posts . While a lot of research has been done on capturing the organic and nutrient value of FS, FaME focuses on using dried FS as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns as practiced with sludge from wastewater treatment in Europe, the USA and Japan.


A heap of unused dried sludge in Dakar, Senegal. A biomass fuel for industries? (Gold)

Activities:
  • A market demand study in Kampala, Dakar and Accra to identify the market potential for innovative FS end-uses.
  • Demonstration of the technical and financial viability of using dried FS as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns.
  • Development and implementation of a tool to assess the financial viability of FS end-uses and presenting the corresponding business models in the project cities.
  • Dissemination of the research findings to key stakeholder.
Results:

Market demand studies conducted in Dakar, Kampala and Accra identified possible markets for five FS end products: use as an industrial fuel, as a source to produce protein for animal feed, a source to produce biogas, a component in building materials, and a soil conditioner or fertilizer. While FS is already used to some extent as an inexpensive soil conditioner, the other end-products represent potential revenue generating sources that have not yet been implemented. The financial viability of the end-uses are not universal but need to consider the local market. The results were submitted to the Journal of Resources, Conservation & Recycling.

Analysis of the calorific value of faecal sludge from different on-site sanitation technologies has shown its potential as a fuel source. On average, the calorific value of faecal sludge was 17 MJ/kg dry solids, thus, highly competitive with local biofuels. This study provides the first scientific evidence on the energy potential of dried FS fuel and has recently been accepted by the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development. The paper will be open-access and available on the project webpage as soon as it gets published. The results of the market demand and calorific value study were presented at the FSM2 conference in Durban. Videos of the presentations are available on the Sandec YouTube channel and were presented in another SuSanA forum post .

An experimental research station compromising of a settling-thickening tank and 12 dryings beds was constructed at the FS treatment plant in Camberene, Dakar, to research ways to enhance drying rates of unplanted drying beds. Given the low solids content of FS, providing cost-effective drying methods is a key challenge. Daily turning of FS on the beds reduces the required time to achieve 90% dryness (target dryness for combustion) by around 25%. Based on these findings, a full-scale mixing device has been constructed at the Bugolobi Wastewater Treatment Plant in Kampala.


Experimental drying beds at the Camberene Faecal Sludge Treatment Plant in Dakar, Senegal (Strande)

Pilot-scale kilns were constructed in Dakar and Kampala to research the use of FS as a combustible. The pilots will compare combustion of FS with other local biofuels in use. The pilots will provide the first scientific data on combustion of FS in the context of developing countries. For industries, decisions regarding sources of fuel have a long-term impact on their operations and may require high capital cost for modifications. Currently, a lack of scientific knowledge on the fuel characteristic, operational protocols, transport, storage and feeding prohibits piloting at larger scale or full-scale implementation. FaME also researches the influence of FS characteristics (e.g. as a function of on-site sanitation technology) on final fuel properties and how fuel processing (i.e. treatment on drying beds) affects combustion. The first successful combustion trials were completed recently.


Pilot kilns in Dakar, Senegal, and Kampala Uganda (Strande, Gold)

All activities feed into the financial flow model, quantifying financial flows and other less tangible benefits (e.g. environmental, social) of the end-use of FS. The financial flow model will provide recommendation on business models, policies or financial incentives which need to be in place to maximize benefits from the end-use of FS. The data collection phase was completed recently and preliminary modeling results can be presented shortly.

Challenges:
  • (Still) not enough awareness for the need of holistic faecal sludge management.
  • A major challenge has been the collaboration with industries. Originally, the FaME research project earmarked piloting their research with a full scale cement factory in Dakar. Industries are not interested to invest prior to examples of full-scale implementation.
  • Flooding of research facility in Dakar and strike at Makerere University.
  • High sand content in final FS fuel due to use of unplanted drying beds (undesired by industries).
  • Seasonal variation of FS drying vs. reliable fuel supply for industries.
Outlook:
  • Proximate & Ultimate analysis of FS to estimate emissions and provide sound evidence of fuel characteristics.
  • Waste Enterprisers are currently building their first commercial-scale plant in Kenya.
  • Discussions on co-combustion with a company in Uganda selling bagasse to a cement factory.
  • Completion of the pilot kiln studies in Dakar and Kampala. Recommendations on operation and full scale implementation.
  • Policy recommendations based on the financial flow model to provide the enabling environment for end use driven FS management.
  • Key-stakeholder workshops in the three cities beginning of 2014.
Contact and further reading:

For further reading visit the FaME project webpage or write any questions you may have here as a reply post.

It would be great if someone has input on the following (selection) of open research questions:
  • What are the major factors determining the market value of faecal sludge end-products and how can they be quantified in an easy manner? We envision a basic tool to identify the most profitable end-use option (e.g. used by utilities or waste based enterprises.
  • How to engage private enterprises in applied research?
  • Are emissions from combustion of excreta/faecal sludge comparable or lower than combustion of other biofuels/fossil fuels?
  • How to cope with the seasonal variation of drying on unplated drying beds (vs. reliable fuel supply)?

Moritz Gold
PhD student ETH Zurich & Eawag/Sandec
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  • dorothee.spuhler
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Re: Faecal Management Enterprises (FaME) project - using dried faecal sludge as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns - Senegal, Uganda and Ghana

Dear Moritz

Thank you for this exhaustive introduction of an interesting project we can learn from.

You were asking for feedback on open research questions – I will not give you the answers, but ask you a few more questions….

Moritz wrote:

  • What are the major factors determining the market value of faecal sludge end-products and how can they be quantified in an easy manner? We envision a basic tool to identify the most profitable end-use option (e.g. used by utilities or waste based enterprises.
  • This question comes up in many projects founded by the program me and I really hope we got some essential feedback here: I am sure YOU have some answers ready for this questions as well based on your two first results: "market demand studies conducted in Dakar, Kampala and Accra for five FS end products” and “analysis of the calorific value of faecal sludge”.
    I guess the “market value" means in a very simple term, the "willingness to pay” of a given customer in a give situation – a demand study and multi -riteria analysis for your targeted users then would be an option to get a approx. value – if you do not have the resources for that, you may do a simple conversion by comparing your product to other similar locally marked products (e.g. fuels in terms of calorific value). Are those the approaches you have tested? Can you give any recommendations to others how to carry out such studies?

    Moritz wrote:

  • WHow to engage private enterprises in applied research?
  • If I read through your project I guess you simply had to start raising their awareness before engaging them really in applied research. For this you probably need to make them aware of not only the "market value” but the financial benefit that a a given fecal sludge management system could bring -> the difference on your market value and current and future production costs of the end-product you want to market.
    Do you have already any results to share on this forum with other grantees regarding a basic financial analysis of the the different reuse scenarios?

    Regards,
    Dorothee

    WG1 Co-lead
    Working with Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM): www.sswm.info
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    • Lauratalsma
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    Re: Faecal Management Enterprises (FaME) project - using dried faecal sludge as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns - Senegal, Uganda and Ghana

    Hi Moritz!

    Thanks for your post - it's very interesting to read, and I found a wealth of good articles on the FaME website, thank you for sharing.
    We've been analyzing the market potential and technical consequences of selling briquettes made of human waste in Kenya, amongst other potential markets for carbonized human waste (biochar) (see here: forum.susana.org/forum/categories/98-res...dation-usa-and-kenya ). For a first selection of which potential markets might be interesting to continue with, we used the factors below.

    Some of the things that came up when investigating the briquette markets in Kenya, were some other factors that came up (they're much more detailed, but could be useful for you): ash content of the briquette (existing vendors use soil as a binder for briquettes, which contains a lot of ash, human waste as well), ease of ignition of the briquette, amount of smoke produced when burning briquette (carbonized briquettes can be used in households and are relatively smoke free, but larger incinerators such as boarding schools, chicken farms etc have closed ovens and can use uncarbonized fuel, which is heavier).

    Let me know what you think about the factors - maybe we can combine them with the FaME factors.

    Biochar production factors
    Biochar properties/quality
    Biochar production capacity
    Extra processing steps necessary (blend, refining, binding)
    Time to market (how much time is necessary to bring the new product to market, certification etc.)

    Market demand factors
    Price range
    Seasonality of demand
    Ease of access to market
    Geographical location
    Distribution infrastructure
    Market size
    Type and amount of competition

    Customer acceptance factors
    Acceptance of biochar product
    Ease of handling
    Loyalty to brand

    External factors
    Policy (soil remediation, carbon offset, organic production, sanitation solution)
    Geographical location of market in correlation with soil maps
    Sensitivities (political, cultural)

    Business model considerations
    Transport costs to market
    Certification costs/time
    Marketing needed
    Extra processing investment
    Environmental assets (C sequestering, reduction of forest felling)
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    • Moritz
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    Re: Faecal Management Enterprises (FaME) project - using dried faecal sludge as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns - Senegal, Uganda and Ghana

    Dear Dorothee, Dear Laura,

    Thanks a lot for your feedback.

    Engagement of private enterprises:

    Simply raising awareness on the “theoretical” benefits of using FS as a fuel is not sufficient to engage industries. We directly pointed out the benefits of using FS as a fuel in their industry by the calorific value study which proved that the energy potential of FS is comparable to other local biofuels. Still we lack the knowledge on technical (e.g. ash content, emissions, transport, storage, feeding) and financial aspects to convince private companies. I feel it is a “chicken or the egg” dilemma and our research was at a stage where it was too immature to attract private companies. One key output is that the amount of dry solids from FS will not substitute a considerable amount of fuel. Assuming a TS concentration of 5 g/l and a FS production of 1000 m3/d, only 5 t of fuel could be produced daily. However, our research and pilot kiln studies paved the way for further pilots. Moreover, our partner Waste Enterprises is about to go full scale in Mombasa.

    Parameters determining the market value:

    Generally one must consider the local market to determine the value of excreta and faecal sludge end-products. Dorothee, when talking about a decision making tool, I mean a 4-10 page leaflet which mentions indicators (e.g. land use, soil fertility, fuels used) and an approach to roughly determine the optimal end-use. Decision makers are not likely to conduct a MCDA and a willingness to pay survey. Briefly: What end-use option creates the most amount of money from my shit? This is also linked to design of treatment systems as we do not want to overdesign system but to the degree of end-use desired.

    Dorothee, I think Laura covered most of the aspects one Need to conside. The long list already points out the difficulties we have with designing a simple tool. I would consider adding the following aspects to Laura`s list:
    • Legal framework: In Europe, the combustion of waste is forbidden in small- to medium kilns. This may also be the case in some low- and middle income countries.
    • A factor determining the investments required to take-up biochar. Maybe you cover this under “Acceptance of biochar product”
    • Potential of local entrepreneurship. We imagine that the capacities and willingness of entrepreneurs to invest into a certain end-use may also be a bottleneck. Maybe selling phone credit on the street creates more revenue than processing excreta into biochar.
    @Laura. When investigating the briquetting market in Kenya, did you not conclude that the amount of excreta is way too low to get into selling briquettes for substitution of charcoal?

    Moritz Gold
    PhD student ETH Zurich & Eawag/Sandec
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    Re: Faecal Management Enterprises (FaME) project - using dried faecal sludge as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns - Senegal, Uganda and Ghana

    Hi Moritz!

    Thanks for your reply. A quick answer to the last question:
    @Laura. When investigating the briquetting market in Kenya, did you not conclude that the amount of excreta is way too low to get into selling briquettes for substitution of charcoal?

    We're working with Sanergy in Nairobi, so the input for the biochar reactor are only the solids collected from the source-separated toilets, which helps for the TS percentages. We're not sure yet if we will continue with the fuel briquettes because there are probably more profitable uses, but I don't think there is a barrier for entering the household fuel market with a relatively small amount. At the moment people in the slum around the waste site are even cooking on plastic bags sometimes, because charcoal is not available or expensive. Substituting charcoal in Nairobi completely will be extremely hard, but starting off selling biochar briquettes in small quantities locally is possible, maybe before ramping up production. Selling biochar briquettes on an industrial scale would demand quite a large processing site, for sure. How much FS will Waste Enterprises process per day? I'm hoping to visit them next time in Kenya.
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    • Moritz
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    Re: Faecal Management Enterprises (FaME) project - using dried faecal sludge as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns - Senegal, Uganda and Ghana

    Thanks Laura, that`s a very interesting discussion.
    From my research I think there are a couple of main problems to compete with the charcoal market (besides e.g. the ash content:
    • Charcoal is way too cheap. It is unsustainable or illegally produced and does not cover the real costs. Chardust Ltd. in Nairobi are only a profitable business because they can use dust from broken charcoal. To pyrolyse feedstocks seems not be financial viable at the moment. Green Bio Energy in Kampala pyrolyse agricultural residue.Unfortunately, they were not willing not share their secret with me. Kampala Jellitone Suppliers produce biomass briquettes from uncarbonized agricultural waste:




    • The cooking habits and stoves are adapted to charcoal.
    • Do people like to cook with human excreta?
    Actually, you are collaborating with some colleagues from Eawag. Some of them will be down in Nairobi from January. My team will be down in Uganda and Kenya in March. Maybe we could discuss synergies in person?

    I think Waste Enterprises will operate in the dimension of tons per day, otherwise you are not interesting for industries. However, WE is mostly processing the large amounts of faecal sludge produced. The percentage of source separation toilets and or dry toilets is still very low.

    What other more profitable uses for the excreta are you exploring?

    Moritz Gold
    PhD student ETH Zurich & Eawag/Sandec
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    • dorothee.spuhler
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    Re: Faecal Management Enterprises (FaME) project - using dried faecal sludge as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns - Senegal, Uganda and Ghana

    Thank you Moritz for your answers.

    Moritz wrote: Engagement of private enterprises:
    Simply raising awareness on the “theoretical” benefits of using FS as a fuel is not sufficient to engage industries. We directly pointed out the benefits of using FS as a fuel in their industry by the calorific value study which proved that the energy potential of FS is comparable to other local biofuels. …


    If it is too early that the argument of the calorific value is enough convincing for industries: are you already looking other arguments (e.g. working on external factors such as the legal framework)? Or do you assume that optimizing the production technology bringing costs down and efficiency up will do the job?

    WG1 Co-lead
    Working with Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management (SSWM): www.sswm.info
    Currently doing research on generating sanitation system options for urban planners and quantifying mass flows for a broad range of options considering novel technologies as an input into decision-making: www.tinyurl.com/eawag-grasp
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    • jonpar
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    Re: Faecal Management Enterprises (FaME) project - using dried faecal sludge as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns - Senegal, Uganda and Ghana

    Dear Moritz, what stage are you at with the FSM financial model and I am wondering if it might be possible to assess its application within the project that I am supporting in Freetown .. this one forum.susana.org/forum/categories/20-job...reetown-sierra-leone best regards, Jonathan

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    Re: Faecal Management Enterprises (FaME) project - using dried faecal sludge as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns - Senegal, Uganda and Ghana

    Dear Dorothee,

    My apologies for the slow reply. We could not identify and legal obstacles at that point. But yes, if governments would for example allow tax benefits for industries buying waste streams, this could be an incentive for its uptake. What were you thinking about?

    My personal reply is that this was simply not part of the FaME project yet. FaME identified marketable faecal sludge treatment endproducts, assessed market demands, quantified the energy potential, demonstrated the technical viability in pilot kilns and showed that revenues from faecal sludge as a solid fuel can be higher than using it as a soil conditioner in agriculture (in three urban areas of Sub-Saharan Africa). All this was not known before.

    But you made a very good point and Sandec and its partners (especially Waste Enterprisers) will further word towards upscaling. We were recently in contact with partners from Bangladesh to transfer the knowledge to Asia where market demand can be significantly higher (India!).

    Eawag is currently designing a new research project. Our local partners have close ties to Ministries and we will certainly incorporate your proposal.


    Dear Jonathan,

    Our partners are currently finalizing work around the financial flow model. Data availability was a major problem when assessing the financial viability. As you know faecal sludge characteristics vary a lot within one city. To determine the total amount of dried faecal sludge which could be produced for energy recovery, the total solids concentrations and the quantity of faecal sludge delivered to a treatment system need be known. Information sources varying by a factor of 10 change your entire financial model. Moreover, there is a lack of faecal sludge treatment plants and lack of operational data. Therefore, we could not draw a final conclusion on the financial viability of using dried faecal sludge in industries. However, we showed that the revenues which can be created from this enduse in contrast to selling it as a soil conditioner, can be much larger.

    I will send you one factsheet on the financial modelling in Accra and will share more information with you (and the SuSanA community) in the coming weeks.

    It would be great to transfer the knowledge of the FaME project to Freetown:
    • In the job description, a dumpsite is mentioned. Does this include any treatment? Do trying beds exist?
    • Currently, the amount of faecal sludge delivered to this dumpsite is very low. This could be a problem when partnering with an industry who require quite high
    • What is the distribution of onsite sanitation technologies (septic tanks vs. pit latrines) of the sludge delivered to the dump side? Is it already pretty thick stuff requiring less drying? In case its mostly from public toilets, dewatering could be a problem. [/li]
    • Is a cement company based closed to Freetown? Brick production?
    Best regards,
    Moritz

    Moritz Gold
    PhD student ETH Zurich & Eawag/Sandec
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    • jonpar
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    Re: Faecal Management Enterprises (FaME) project - using dried faecal sludge as a solid biofuel in industrial kilns - Senegal, Uganda and Ghana

    Dear Moritz,

    Many thanks for your reply.

    I understand well from first hand experience the difficulties of getting good data - particularly problematic for financial modelling of technologies that are not widely used. If they are only in the stage of development, then hard to say if the cost if really a good reflection of what the cost would be if the technology was to be used at scale and available on the market. The technology may be available in a different country but that does not mean to say that the cost will be the same elsewhere.

    I also see your point about the volumes of sludge which affects the sizing of facilities (design) as well as the costs. I guess that is just something that can only be improved as we collect more empirical data.

    With respect to the economic value of different products associated with treated sludge or energy (from biogas), there seems little point asking households their willingness to pay for reuse. Is the best approach to compare with existing costs of sources of fertilizer and energy. Thus, if farmers are already pay for fertilizer, we make an estimation of the economic value by saying that 1 kg of nutrients contained in treated sludge has the same benefit as 1 kg of nutrients in synthetic fertilizer. This is essential the approach adopted in the WSP study on "Study for Financial and Economic
    Analysis of Ecological Sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa" www.wsp.org/UserFiles/file/Ecosan_Report.pdf

    An a similar approach could be adopted to estimate the value of biogas by using the calorific value of X m3 of biogas and comparing to the price of electricity with the same amount of energy.

    I am keen to learn from the structure of the financial model to assess it's application in Freetown. So thanks for the factsheet which I will have a good look at.

    With respect to your questions, I am not aware of a cement/brick factory near to Freetown but I can try and find out.

    The drying beds in Freetown at King Tom waste disposal site have been totally submerged for years. GOAL have been piloting a composting facility which has a small sludge drying bed as pre-treatment. My impression is that most of the sludge arriving in trucks to these municipal waste facilities is septage and that this has a high water content. Even if the sludge was more solid when it was in the pit/tank, there is a need to add alot of water to liquify the sludge before it is pumpable. It has also been mentioned to me that if the sludge has been in the pit for a long time, then it will have undergone digestion and therefore will have lost some it's calorific value.

    best regards,

    Jonathan

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    • LindaStrande
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    Re: New video!! Innovation in Urban Sanitation: FaME and U-ACT research in Sub-Saharan Africa

    Dear All,

    In celebration of World Toilet Day we are launching our new video, Innovation in Urban Sanitation: FaME and U-ACT research in Sub-Saharan Africa.



    Enjoy!

    Linda Strande, PhD
    Senior Scientist
    Eawag - Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science & Technology
    Sandec - Department of Water & Sanitation in Developing Countries
    www.sandec.ch
    www.eawag.ch
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    • ben
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    Re: New video!! Innovation in Urban Sanitation: FaME and U-ACT research in Sub-Saharan Africa

    Dear Linda,

    Thanks fo sharing, and congratulation to the Eawag team you're always very good at sharing knowledge and research through nice videos and publications.

    I'd be curious to know how much you increased the rate of trucks de-sludging in facilities making them free access. In Phnom penh where law inforcment was totally ineffective cause only the cost of fuel (+ time consumed) going to the plant would make them de-sludge everywhere. Looking forward to read the full report.

    Good luck for all,

    Ben
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