Project Summary

Waste-to-Energy Firm Seeks to Clean-up Africa

In the Fall of 2012, Point380 facilitated a Collaborative Innovation Workshop for Waste Enterprisers, a Ghanian waste-to-energy firm, to inspire an Africa-appropriate design of a new facility that will convert human fecal sludge into a pelletised combustible fuel. Below is an overview of the project.

More than 2.6 billion people do not have access to improved sanitation. This staggering number still vastly underestimates the true unserved population, as many are provided with very poor services. Furthermore, the number does not include households that are connected to a sewer system, but whose wastewater is discharged directly to the environment without any treatment. The best available statistics suggest that less than 15% of wastewater that is collected receives any treatment before being discharged.

The consequences of inadequate sanitation would be hard to overstate. It results in over 2 million deaths per year – mostly children under five – and irreversible destruction of ecosystems. A recent report by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program estimated that poor sanitation costs Ghana USD 290 million each year, or 1.6% of its national GDP (WSP 2012). The same report estimates that poor sanitation costs 18 African countries a sum of USD 5.5 billion each year.

Waste Enterprisers Ltd (WE) is developing GreenHeat, a solid fuel derived from fecal sludge. GreenHeat is cost competitive and more energy dense than wood pellets, which are currently most ubiquitous biomass fuel used and traded on the global market. Harnessing human waste as solid fuel will help to strengthen global supply of biomass fuel, while simultaneously helping to solve the sanitation crisis that persists in the developing world. An industrial plant to produce GreenHeat is in the earliest stages of development, WE and Point380 have conducted a Collaborative Innovation Workshop (CIW) to bring together technical experts to define a cost-effective and Africa-appropriate plant design.

GreenHeat Collarborative Innovation Workshop

In the fall of 2012, Point380 produced a "virtual" CIW to convene 10 experts in the fields of wastewater, renewable energy, greenhouses, energy modeling and industrial systems, literally from across the globe. Over a period of three weeks, a series of design meetings covering all crucial aspects of the plant and process were conducted using an online platform to provide video, audio and instant message communication for the participants.

CIW Agenda

The CIW produced an expert-vetted consensus for the design of a novel large-scale plant appropriate for Africa. The expert participants reinforced the idea that a low-tech passive solar drying technology is critical to success. Also, a biomass gasification plant from Community Power Corporation was identified as a potential solution to provide multiple energy services to the facility, providing flexibility in energy feedstocks from WE's own GreenHeat product to local agricultural waste, whichever proves most economic.

Plant diagram

Next Steps

The WE team and Point380 are collaborating to research and develop an analytical model for solar sludge drying. This model will provide crucial input to evaluate design options and also will aid in estimating the size and cost of a complete facility according to it's specific climate and latitude. See WE's post describing onsite experiments to define and validate the model.

Back to What We Do - INDUSTRIAL