Zimbabwe Farmers' Union

Promoting Cotton By-Products. (Study visit to ICAR-India)

01 Feb 2019

By Adeva Gwenzi

In January, ZFU officers together with representative from Cottco, Cotton Value Adders Association, Ministry of Industry Commerce and Enterprise Development and Cotton Research Institute took part  in a study visit on promoting cotton by-products technologies which took place in Nagpur India,

The visit which was organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in partnership with the Ginning Training Centre of ICAR-Central Institute for Research on Cotton Technology.

The activity was under the project; “Promoting Cotton by-products in Eastern and Southern Africa” which is supported by UNCTAD

Huge quantities of agro-residues are generated every year in many countries, but it is mostly disposed by burning in fields causing extensive environment pollution and soil degradation

The main purpose of the visit was to demonstrate how the Indians are benefitting from adding value to cotton residue by making briquettes and pellets, used as a fuel.

Briquetting is the process of densification of agro-residues to produce homogeneous, uniformly sized solid pieces of high bulk density, which can be conveniently used as a fuel.

The softening of lignin due to generation of heat and its subsequent cooling during briquetting process causes natural binding of particles of cotton biomass into briquettes.

In briquetting and pelleting processes, biomass is densified mostly in circular shapes.

Briquettes of 90 mm diameter and pellets of 6, 8, 10- and 12-mm diameter are commonly manufactured in industries.

In Zimbabwe, the cotton industry is mostly generating income from, lint, seed oil, and cotton cake and cotton stalk is usually burnt to clear the fields for the next season.

In India on the other hand, cotton stalk is not thrown away but it is value added to make briquettes and pellets which are a source of fuel that can be used in place of charcoal.

Cotton stalk is also used to make particle boards.

In several developed countries, the densification of agro-residues has not only solved the pollution problems but also provided a very important industrial/domestic energy resource.

In India, more than 500 briquetting plants of 20 TPD capacity are running successfully for past 4-5 years.

The biomass briquettes are mostly used in India for boiler fuel (alternative to coal) in many industries.

During the visit, the delegates were taken through the whole cotton value chain, from the production of the cotton, the processing of the lint, making of the briquettes and pellets and even the process of machine manufacturing and fabrication.

The study tour participants visited businesses which are using briquettes to power their boilers.

One of such businesses is M/s Pix Transmissin, MIDC Higna which uses briquettes for their broilers in rubber making.

The cotton stalk pellets have replaced LPG cylinders for cooking of foods in several restaurants in many parts of India as it is said to cost about half the amount of commercial LPG and also provide smokeless flames similar to LPG flames.

A local restaurant visited by the participants has also opted to use pallets as a source of affordable fuel to use for cooking.

In several developed countries, the densification of agro-residues has not only solved the pollution problems but also provided a very important industrial/domestic energy resource.

The biomass contributes about 70 % of the total energy generated from renewable resources in the European Union (EU).

The consumption of wood pellets has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, especially in developed countries.

In Europe, pellets are mainly used for the production of electricity and residential heating. In the USA, most of the pellets are bagged and marketed for domestic purposes such as pellet stoves. Countries like Canada export wood pellets produced from sawdust and wood shavings to European countries (Sweden and Denmark).

The worldwide pellet market (especially the EU) has a trend of persistent rise.

The biomass pellet industry has gained a rapid momentum over the past decade.

The USA and most of European countries are the largest markets for biomass pellets. United Sates of America and Sweden procure about 4 and 13 % of their energy, respectively, from biomass and Sweden is implementing initiatives to phase out nuclear plants, reduce fossil fuel energy utilisation and enhance the use of bioenergy.

As a way forward, amongst the recommendations made by the study tour participants is to facilitate technology transfer and domestication through establishment of a demonstration centre in Zimbabwe.