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Energy from Coffee waste in Central America

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Background

Agriculture is expected to be highly vulnerable to Climate Change; however, at the same time, agriculture is an important contributor in creating the conditions for Climate Change. One topic that is of concern in the discussion around climate change and coffee production is water.

By implementing the UTZ CERTIFIED Code of Conduct, coffee producers already positively address a variety of water and climate issues. However, acknowledging that climate change is a threat to coffee producers and coffee production worldwide, UTZ CERTIFIED is looking into further measures suitable to address the problem.

In line with this approach UTZ CERTIFIED has commissioned a “Background Research on Climate and Certification” to identify possibilities to include climate change aspects into certification. The key drivers from the report are: deforestation, land use change and degradation of land; land management practices and processing of coffee. These results are also supported by a research commissioned by Tchibo (a large coffee roaster, looking into the distribution of carbon emissions along the coffee supply chain - see graph).

Coffee processing is an energy intensive process and a potential source of contamination. Coffee waste, i.e. pulp, and waste water that leave the coffee processing units are rich in organic matter and are damaging to natural water bodies if not treated correctly. Furthermore, a first assessment carried out in Central America by our partner Solidaridad, showed that one of the factors in coffee production that has a negative impact on climate is the methane produced in the fermentation process. Methane is a much more damaging greenhouse gas (GHG) than CO₂.

Description of the project “Energy from coffee waste in Nicaragua”

The goals of the project “Energy from Coffee Waste in Central America” are two-fold -- produce biogas that is usable as an alternative energy from the wet method process for extraction of coffee beans from coffee cherries. Second --reduce pollution through effective treatment of waste water.
During the wet method process enormous amounts of waste are generated in the form of pulp and residual water. This waste water is high in organic matter and acidity content and with a Chemical Oxygen Demand value that varies between 18,000 and 30,000 milligrams per liter. Oxidation of the organic matter in the water is done by means of microflora of bacteria that feed on the matter while consuming oxygen. In cases of substantial discharge of waste water into natural water bodies, the oxygen is significantly depleted (anaerobisis) thereby destroying the aquatic fauna and flora.

Investigation into using waste water to produce biogas as an alternative energy was explored as a means to lessen negative impacts. Specifically, the project focused on the methane generated by anaerobic methanogenic bacteria as a source to create electrical energy. In application -- up to 70% of the diesel used by a diesel generator in a pulping machine could be substituted with this biogas. This energy also generates a substantial amount of the heat needed to dry the processed coffee and replace other fuels such as those used in kitchen stoves.

Within the framework of the Dutch ‘’Biomassa Mondiaal’’ fund, UTZ CERTIFIED and its consortium were awarded funding. This subsidy provision is executed on behalf of the Minister for Development Cooperation in mandate by Agentschap NL, an agency of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
The project started in April 2010 in Nicaragua and will expand to Honduras and Guatemala to April 2013 in a project consortium with Climate Neutral Group and Fundación Utz Kapeh.
Our other project partners are ACERES (Ambiente y Certificaciones Especiales) consultancy and Solidaridad.

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Pictures @ Climate Neutral Group

Inauguration at the 3 pilot sites

In order to learn the many benefits and challenges of converting coffee waste into energy a cross- section of producers in Nicaragua were selected as pilot sites for the first coffee season of this project; CISA -- a large exporter with its own ‘beneficio’ (processing plant), CECOCAFEN -- a cooperative with a central ‘beneficio’ and El Polo -- a cooperative where smallholders process their coffee themselves.

CISA (large exporter) and CECOCAFEN (cooperative with central beneficio) focused on the challenges of substantial water usage during the wet method process for extraction and the negative environmental impacts as a result of insufficient treatment of the waste water. Additionally, the exporter addressed the issue of high energy costs.
El Polo (smallholder cooperative, each farmer processing their own coffee) addressed environmental impacts created by insufficient treatment of waste water discharged to the river, deforestation resulting from chopping firewood for preparation of food and the health issue of inhaling the smoke.

The CISA pilot site is located in Diriamba. It is estimated for this wet coffee processing plant to produce biogas equivalent to an average of 200 thousand kilowatts of power, which means a saving of up to $ 40,000 annually. Gilberto Monterrey, Technical Director of the biogas plant, said the waste water management process is modern and allows more efficient treatment, which ensures less pollution.
He explained that the new facility also allows a more optimal use of water to wash coffee, reducing it to less than 66 000 gallons per year.


Picture @ Climate Neutral Group

For the whole article on the CISA inauguration in a Nicaraguan newspaper click here.

The project was funded by the Dutch government and by the consortium UTZ CERTIFIED, CNG and Utz Kapeh.

Get engaged

If you would like to discuss your pointers for success as it comes to economic feasibility of biomass projects, and exchange views with other project implementers of The Sustainable Biomass Import programme (DBI) or the Global Sustainable Biomass programme (DBM), please join the discussion on Linkedin.

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