Indonesia — Widiarti is no longer bothered by the soaring price of kerosene, nor does she have to queue for the increasingly scarce commodity after turning to organic waste-based briquettes as alternative fuel.
“We housewives don’t need to line up or hunt for kerosene anymore now that we use organic waste briquettes,” said Widiarti, a mother of three.
Aside from benefiting from an alternative fuel source amid the country’s kerosene shortage, she told The Jakarta Post, briquettes also proved to be more economical. One kilogram of briquettes — at Rp 1,500 per kg — is enough to keep her kitchen fired for at last three days to cook for her family of five.
Widiarti is only one of the dozens of housewives in Sidomulyo village, Bambanglipuro district, Bantul, who have abandoned kerosene and turned to bio-coal briquettes for cooking purposes. This alternative fuel is the creative product of Basriyanto, a student currently studying for his master’s degree at Gadjah Mada University’s School of Technology.
“This idea came about from concerns over the conversion policy. Under this policy, the price of kerosene could reach Rp 6,000 per liter. I was wondering whether rural women, food sellers and sidewalk vendors depending on kerosene would be able to survive,” Basriyanto said.
In early 2006, Basriyanto was searching for literature on garbage recycling and conducted hundreds of experiments on how to turn rubbish into an alternative fuel source by means of simple technology. By the end of 2007, Basriyanto had created briquettes out of nutshells, corncobs and sawdust.
“The applied technology is cheap and practical … villagers can afford the cost of producing waste-based briquettes,” he added.
Cooperating with the Sidomulyo village administration, Basriyanto conducted training workshops in briquette making. Some of the local residents who joined the workshops have begun producing the fuel for nearby communities.
“With low-cost technology, we have continued to develop bio-coal briquettes. Regular training is conducted and a lot of people are interested,” said Sidomulyo village chief Edy Murjito.
In addition to reducing villagers’ dependence on expensive fuels like kerosene, bio-coal briquettes also contribute to environmental cleanliness.
“We have abundant fuel sources in the form of garbage, which often poses a problem to the environment. Briquette making will help create a junk-free environment,” he added.
Bio-coal briquette maker Gunarto, 36, said the process of production was very simple. Nutshells are pulverized by grinding or pounding, then the fine powder produced is mixed with tapioca, which works as an adhesive, before being burned.
A used oil drum can serve as a furnace; its lower part is supported and holes are drilled to create air circulation. Its middle part is given a wire-rod box partition where coconut fibers are placed as the burning material.
The coconut fibers are burned and after the drum is heated, a third of the container is filled with nutshell powder and covered with a funnel-built lid.
“The nutshell waste will become charcoal and we fill up the drum with the waste. After four hours, the nutshell briquettes are ready,” the father of one said.
The burned waste is then lightly sprayed with water and the coal is pressed using a hydraulic system.
“The pressure standard is 20 Kg. After pressing, we just wait until the briquettes are dried for use,” he added.
Gunarto said there were difficulties involved in marketing the new product as it was still somewhat unfamiliar to the villagers. However, he said, a number of families were currently using the new fuel.
In an effort to introduce bio-coal briquettes to the local community, Gunarto said he had distributed the briquettes to relatives for trial.
According to Basriyanto, despite of the use of waste as their base, bio-coal briquettes have a fairly high caloric value ranging from 4,000 calories/gram to 6,000 calories/gram, depending on the type of organic garbage used.
Laboratory tests showed that wood shavings-based briquettes registered 5012.370 calories/gram, with a 6.147-percent water grade and a 13.36-percent ash grade. Corncob-based briquettes were recorded at 5919.79 calories/gram, with a 7.409-percent water grade and a 7.55-percent ash grade. This range is equivalent to the caloric value of coal briquettes; therefore these bricks can be used as industrial fuel.
Bio-coal briquettes leave no soot when touched, are easy to light and emit almost no smoke. They produce a reddish-blue flame and the fine ash left after burning can be used as scouring material for washing dishes and kitchen utensils.
“Boiling 1.5 liters of water takes less than 10 minutes,” said Basriyanto, comparing the use of bio-coal briquettes to the longer time taken when using kerosene. Economically, he said, bio-coal briquettes had very bright prospects.
“Some industries in East Java are even prepared to use as much of this fuel as possible,” said Edy Murdjito. “But we still need to focus on the use of bio-coal briquettes by village communities and their distribution to the masses first,” Basriyanto added.