Creating New Data Sets for Emissions Inventory

Instruments set to measure the emissions of traditional pit system (TPS).
Photo: Sagar Adhikari/ICIMOD

Nepal’s energy requirement has increased substantially in recent years due to rapid urbanization and expansion of businesses. 

Charcoal, a carbonaceous solid renewable fuel that is obtained as a residue left after the burning of wood and other biodegradable organic matter, is considered an important source of energy for both domestic and industrial purposes. Its demand has been increasing steadily for more than a decade. It is a fuel with a fixed carbon content of 70% or more. Its production varies according to the feedstock that is used for making it. 

In Nepal, many community forests are involved in the production of charcoal from forest materials generated from the annual cutting and pruning cycle. The traditional pit system (TPS) is the most widely used charcoal production technique. It is a low-cost technology which only requires some agriculture-based tools for the excavation a defined pit size and a plate to cover the pit with. “As all the work is done below ground level, the operators of such pits are exposed to high emission and experience high heat stress,” says Sagar Adhikari, Emissions Measurement Research Associate at ICIMOD. The charcoal produced is not of high quality and the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere may be higher than the benefits derived from the charcoal.

Emission measurement of bioenergy kiln.
Photo: Sagar Adhikari/ICIMOD

The Bioenergy Project was initiated in Nepal to upscale the production and consumption of bioenergy to reduce carbon emissions and enhance local employment. With simple modifications to fixed retorts and kilns to make them more financially feasible, the project has developed a new technology bioenergy kiln. This new kiln, although not very different from TPS in terms of operation, seems more efficient in terms of emissions reduction and produces high quality charcoal. The team approached the Atmosphere Initiative of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) for support to measure emissions by both systems to find out if the new one is less polluting. 

Adhikari, who is involved in the campaign, has been collecting emissions data on both TPS and bioenergy kilns from Chitwan. Instruments like e-samplers, microaeth, licor, IAQ probes, and gas analyzers were used to measure particulate matter (PM 2.5) and gaseous pollutants like carbon (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), black carbon (BC), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nitrogen oxide (NOx). The pollution samples were collected in gas canisters to be sent to a laboratory in the United States for characterization of the gases.

Data collection.
Photo: Siva Praveen Puppala/ICIMOD

“Measurement campaigns such as this one help us fill the knowledge gaps in our emissions inventory,” says Siva Praveen Puppala, an aerosol scientist who is leading the campaign with support from Sujan Shrestha. Both researchers are from ICIMOD. He further explains that the campaign will not only help compare emissions produced by the two systems but will also provide the dataset for each technology in the inventory. 

The Bioenergy Project is a four-year (2014–2017) project partnered by HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Asia Network for Sustainable Agriculture and Bioresources (ANSAB), Sustainable Technology Adaptive Research and Implementation Center (STARIC/N), and Winrock International