Pioneering biomass based cogeneration in Africa

Pioneering biomass based cogeneration in Africa

There has been an increase in the demand for electricity in recent years, however, capacity typically falls short of this need. Cummins Cogeneration Kenya managing director Yash Krishna notes that there are multiple solutions for this problem, including cogeneration, a field of expertise where Cummins has placed a substantial amount of attention.

Krishna explains, “Over the next three years, Cummins Cogeneration Kenya (CK) plans to develop significant megawatts of new capacity by using different types of biomass. Due to a lack of grid infrastructure, we typically see power generated through the use of diesel and solar installations for rural electrification in Africa, however this is expensive and does not benefit the local communities.”

The biomass cogeneration power solution that has been developed by Cummins is tailor-made, modular and highly portable. Krishna points out that a plant can be established where it is possible to align the availability of biomass with power consumption.

He adds that Kenya has one of the most well-established power sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, there are shortages in power supply. "Current sources of power supply for the country include; hydro power, thermal sources, geothermal energy, and more recently crude oil. Biomass cogeneration could play a notable role in Kenya’s energy future.”

Cummins CK has been involved in the innovative Marigat project in the Baringo County of Kenya, which will generate 12 megawatts of electricity by making use of the invasive Prosopis Juliflora plant as feedstock. In addition to stimulating the local economy through the utilisation of an invasive plant species, the Marigat project will also be a platform for producer gas engines from Cummins Power Generation. Biomass based power generation is the only form of power generation which creates a large socio-economic impact, as the fuel is harvested and acquired from the nearby area.

Krishna highlights the fact that Cummins CK has formed partnerships with local community based organisations to assist with the project. "Cummins CK will be responsible for training and will assist, empower and tool the farmers to harvest and transport the biomass to the plant site, thereby ensuring that the correct quality and quantity of biomass is delivered daily."

The modular cogeneration plants from Cummins are quick and easy to install, which is important as construction costs in Africa are high. The gasification technology from Cummins CK is able to utilise a variety of combustible biomass, including: argo-waste, argo-residue, woody biomass, invasive species, household waste, as well as rubber and coal.

Krishna states that biomass cogeneration technology has vastly improved in recent years thanks to improvements in gas purification. This has in turn lowered maintenance requirements. “As with other forms of power generation, it is expected that capital costs will decrease and efficiency will continue to improve."

With projected electricity demand growth, increase in consumer tariff and availability of biomass, Krishna concludes by adding that he is confident that Cummins CK will become a significant player in the renewable energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa through the development of several biomass based energy plants in strategic locations. 

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