Haiti Reconstruction

Rebuilding Haiti must start from the ground up, with agricultural education

Alternative Fuel for Haiti: Vetiver Grass

 Vetiver Grass stops erosion that was caused by the cutting of trees for charcoal.   

 Now it can be used for fuel in clean burning cooking stoves and ovens!

Click here for an in depth study of Micro Gasification: Cooking with gas from biomass

 

This will save Haiti's remaining trees and reduce families' cooking fuel costs!

 

 

Why Pyrolytic Stoves click here for explanation and video!

 

 

The char that is left over is Biochar that will hold water and nutrients. (Watch video to learn more bottom of this page)

 

Join our  Cookstove, Biochar & Vetiver Group for discussions on cookstoves, fuel pellets or briquettes and ways to market vetiver as cookstove fuel.

 

Vetiver produces the most dry biomass per unit of time than any other plant on our planet!

Vetiver has the highest photosynthetic activity of any plant according to Dr. Massimo Maffei of the University of Turin Italy.  Other plants may produce more tons per acre total weight but contain 50% more moisture.  Vetiver hay when dried can produce 70 to 80 tons per hectare of cellulosic biomass

Best of all is its easy grow and harvest 2 to 3 times per year.

But vetiver grass is 1/3rd the cost per ton of BTU value of petroleum or propane gas!

Buying propane that comes from outside Haiti also drains the economy, using vetiver grass as fuel will also fuel the economy!

See more facts on vetiver for fuel, click here

 

 

A university student wanted to know the energy value of vetiver which reminded me of a note from Gueric Boucard (Dominican Republic), Gueric uses vetiver as feed stock for his power plant, and energy prices are on the rise again:

  • A vetiver plantation in the tropics under irrigation or good annual rainfall will produce up to 80 tons per hectare per year of dry vetiver grass.
  • The grass can be baled with a standard hay baler after 3 or 4 days of sun drying.
  • The dry grass was found to have a calorific value of 7,000 btu per pound. (about one half of that of coal).
  • A modern thermal power plant would require 1000 tons of vetiver bales per day to produce 50 Megawatts around the clock. ( I know this, because there is a 50 Megawatt power plant in my backyard, in Barahona, D.R. which burns 500 tons per day of coal imported from Columbia with 13,000 btu/lb)
  • 1000 tons of vetiver bales more than equal 500 tons of coal, and can be harvested from a 12.5 hectare field easily in one day.
  • Hence to run the 50 Megawatt power plant 365 days per year on vetiver hay will require a plantation of 4,563 hectares, surrounding the plant. (think of a sugarmill surrounded by fields of sugarcane).
  • Unlike sugarcane, the vetiver plantation does not need to be re-planted. The vetiver plantation will just grow back with natural rainfall and can be considered a renewable and sustainable FUEL MINE, which can be harvested every year, at any time of the year, for 20 years or more, just adding some fertilizer.
  • If the power plant owns the farm land (like a sugarmill) and its own farming operation, I estimate the raw cost of producing one ton of vetiver biomass fuel at no more than US$15/ton, once the plantation is established.
Power plant engineers will have only one question for you: What is the cost of the fuel per Million btu (MMbtu)? Here is how to calculate:
  • If one pound of dry vetiver leaves has 7000 btu, then it takes 1,000,000 divided by 7000 to establish how many pounds of the fuel will produce 1,000,000 btus. 1,000,000 divided by 7000 = 142.9 lbs. if one ton of vetiver fuel (2000 lbs) cost US$15, then US$15 divided by 2000 and multiplied by 142.9 gives you what it costs to produce 1,000,000 btus, that is: Vetiver fuel cost: US$1.07/MMbtu
  • If you do the math for one of the cheapest fuels, which is COAL with 14,000 btu/lb, at US$45/ton (in the US), you will find: Coal fuel cost: US$1.60/MMbtu
  • Let's try it for crude petroleum, just for kicks. At only $100 per barrel ( a barrel = 42 gallons or 336 lbs). One ton (2000 lbs) divided by 336 lbs = 5.95 barrels per ton....., multiplied by $100 = US$595/ton of crude petroleum. Now, petroleum has about 18,000 btus per pound...., so 1,000,000 divided by 18,000 = 55.5 lbs. It takes only 55.5 lbs of crude petroleum to produce a MMbtu. But US$595 divided by 2000 and multiplied by 55.5 lbs gives the fuel cost per MMbtu: Crude petroleum fuel cost: US$16.5/MMbtu
I don't rest my case yet. One could argue that planting vetiver for fuel, is one of the easiest and safest farming operations (no diseases, no weather damage, no nothing) and one of the most lucrative uses for tropical farmland....., if electricity at US$0.12 per Kw/h is the final product.
If somebody in the third world ever figures this out, one of the biggest problems will be to insure that food crops are not displaced for fuel production. Really, only second rate farmlands should be used or cleared for vetiver fuel production.

 

Ways to use this alternative fuel.

 

 Grass bundles, Click here

Cheapest method but hard to transport, resell and must be dry stored for rainy season.

 

 

 

 

 

 Dried grass can be ground and compacted into briquettes

This method is done close to vetiver source ea sier to transport and resell can be stored through rainy season with little expense but more labor than bundles.

 

 

Comment by Robert Fairchild on May 29, 2011 at 3:23pm

A Manual Hay Baler might be a useful intermediate step in transporting vetiver or other fibrous materials to briquetting/pelletizing sites.

 See also http://oak-hill-homestead.blogspot.com/2007/09/hay-baling.html

KickStart (formerly Approtech) used to make a manual baler:

Comment by Robert Fairchild on May 29, 2011 at 3:40pm

Another manual hay baler in FAO's Self Teaching Manual in Hair Sheep Production, Chapter 4 Feeding Sheep

(Hair Sheep are sheep suitable for tropical areas as the naturally shed their wool. They are raised for meat, not wool)

 

 

Better to tie it up in the baler instead of after removal.

Comment by Robert Fairchild on June 2, 2011 at 8:00pm
Comment by Robert Fairchild on August 5, 2013 at 6:53pm

ECHO has a publication called Haybaler. It is made completely from wood. Download from:

http://www.echocommunity.org/default.asp?page=tech_notes&DGPCrS...

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