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Charcoal Briquette Production in ERDB, UPLB

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Philippine archipelago is genuinely rich with natural resources however, the country is still experiencing crisis for sustainable and affordable renewable energy sources – hydro, geothermal, wind, solar and biomass. Instead of developing these sources, humans tend to damage and deteriorate the environment due to misuse and abusive activities. Humans have recourse to activities with “consume and flee” routine. After annihilating the forest, humans escape from their responsibility to return or replace what they have acquired; leaving nothing but wastes. Nowadays, there are a lot of campaigns concerning the environment and that includes the 3R: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. And when we talk about recycling, the first thing that comes into our minds is the most prevailing paradigm – “Pera sa Basura”. With Filipinos’ creativity and resourcefulness, this ideology comes into reality.

People make something out of wastes and use it for revenue. Many local towns have engaged in making products involving craftsmanship and artistry which allow them create trademarks known not only in the country but also internationally. Forest and agricultural wastes are usually consist of dusts, wood chops, flakes, husks, wood scales, peels, hulls and dried leaves, branches or twigs. Prevalently, these wastes have no use and should be thrown already. But for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), forest or agricultural wastes still have a long way to pursue. DENR’s branch, Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), has incorporated with Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI) to develop a project which can alleviate the need for alternative energy sources specifically, for biomass and biofuels.

With the use of wastes they termed as “abandoned biomass” and the advanced technology provided by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Department of Energy (DOE), DENR-ERDB was able to create a useful and profitable product – charcoal briquettes. The charcoal briquette was first invented and patented by Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer of Pennsylvania in 1897 and was produced by the Zwoyer Fuel Company. The process was further popularized by Henry Ford, who used wood and sawdust by-products from automobile fabrication as a feedstock. Ford Charcoal went on to become the Kingsford Company. It was introduced in the Philippines in 1950’s for export and connection.

In the late 1980’s, FPRDI was able to produce charcoal briquettes out of saw dusts and in the year 1999, a joint project of DENR-ERDB and FPRDI, which are both located at the province of Laguna, created the green charcoal briquettes or the DENR Charcoal Briquettes. The project primarily aims to ease the dependency towards Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), to promote a better way for proper waste disposal and to convert abandoned biomass into a biofuel which shall reduce the pressure in cutting and using wood from natural forest. DENR Charcoal is a solid fuel derived from carbonized leaves, twigs, stem and other farm and urban wastes and compacted into briquettes (Baconguis, 2013). The ERDB enhanced the machine used by FPRDI in creating charcoal briquettes including the molder and binder that shape them.

The machinery is composed of briquetter, grinder/shredder, and carbonizer (plate and drum type).The project covers the law which facilitates proper wastes disposal namely Commonwealth Act 383- Anti-Dumping Law (1938), PD 856 – Sanitation Code (1975), PD 825- Garbage Disposal Law (1975), PD 1151- Phil. Environmental Policy (1978), PD 1152-Phil. Environment Code (1978), RA 7160- Local Government Code, DENR Administrative Order 98-49 and 98-50 – Technical Guidelines for Municipal Solid Waste Disposal and RA 9003 – an act providing for an ecological solid waste management program (Baconguis, 2006). It also conceals PD 705 Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines and RA 8749- Clean Air Act. The project was exempted from RA 8749 since the act states to burn wastes from plants only and those that utilizes “carbon neutral”.

According to Mr. Alexander Malabanan, carbon neutral refers to carbon emitted from burning wastes but will eventually consume by the plants thus, it will not contribute in enhancing Green House Gases. Traditional charcoal making has been identified by DENR to be the most destructive upland activity. As communities try to make livelihood out of cutting trees to produce charcoal, deforestation issues arise and its consequences are already conspicuous. Consequently, the fuel prices are continuously increasing so the people have no other choice left but to resort in activities which deplete and destroy forests. The jeopardy does not end there for the wastes from denuded forests are being dumped into landfills consuming possible residential or commercial land area or are being burned contributing to pollution and other harmful effects to the environment.

Thus, several government agencies initiated to develop various technologies in order to create the DENR Charcoal Briquettes. However, it is always not 100% success during the first trial. Mr. Alexander Malabanan (Development Management Officer III) stated that when they tested the briquettes, large amount of smoke is being emitted upon burning and the other wastes have gained resilience and returned to their original length before compression (termed as “spring back”). So, they decided to carbonize the product through charring hence the term charcoal briquettes.

The process has lessened the energy requirement of the product and the average recovery after carbonization is 25%. This means that for every 1 ton of raw material, 250 kg of carbonized materials can be produced (Baconguis, 2013). Fresh binder such as cassava or corn starch has been used as binder because they are readily available in the market and they are also smokeless. The molder of the briquettes has been also modified to have larger diameter to produce more briquettes (300-320 kilos for 8 hrs operation). After the remediation, the charcoal briquettes when tested have emitted less smoke and the spring backs are already gone.

The DENR Charcoal briquettes are concluded to be comparable to traditional charcoals in terms of effectivity and cost. 1 kilo of charcoal briquettes is equivalent to 2 to 3 kilos of traditional charcoal because traditional ones have low density raw materials which are also responsible for making them burn but not releasing enough heat to increase the temperature and reach the range needed to cook or use as brooder in poultry farms where chicks need heat at 12-15 days. The DENR Charcoal on the other hand, emits constant heat with low clean flame. The charcoal is easy to ignite and burns completely in at least 50 minutes. Due to its high heating value, depending on the raw agricultural material used, it reduces the charcoal consumption requirement of its consumers.

Briquettes that are dense and heavy have also been tested to have heating values near that of other substitute products like LPG and coke. Aside from ensuring the savings of the consumers that will switch to charcoal briquettes, extensive charcoaling of wood will also be reduced. Every year, household and industrial charcoal users consume about 5.4 million cubic meters of fuel wood from the forests and woodlands or an equivalent of 1.35 million metric tons of charcoal. With the substitution of agricultural biomass, charcoal briquettes will not only make into good use solid agricultural wastes but also help in reducing carbon dioxide emission in the atmosphere and lessen the cutting of trees from our forests. It is estimated that for every ton of briquettes produced, about 88 trees are conserved.

To maximize the use of DENR Charcoal, ERDB has developed a process to use the smoke being emitted by the product. During the process of carbonization of raw materials, a by-product known as “liquid smoke” can be utilized and collected. In other countries, they call it “wood vinegar”. This is made up of micro and macro elements rich in Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus. Thus, it is used as fertilizer to enhance the growth of plants. According to survey, farmers have been using it as an insect repellant and pesticide for golden kuhol and flies. It is also used as a component of both perfume and deodorizer. Farmers also use it as muscle pain reliever, remedy for athlete’s foot and as preservative for latex/rubber. Through DENR Charcoal, many people will be aware of the current situation of the environment and natural forests encouraging them to stop engaging in deforestation and just make use of abandoned biomass for charcoal making.

Waste disposal in forested areas will also improve and cleanliness will also be promoted. Methane generation from decomposing cellulosic abandoned biomass will also be avoided. It is also an environment-friendly biofuel thus, pollution will be reduced. With the country’s forests protected and allowed to rehabilitate, their capacities in absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutants in the environment is increased, thereby reducing pollution/CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. According to Dignos (2011), Almeria Seafarers Multipurpose Cooperative (ASEMCO) developed a small air-cleaning product made of charcoal briquette. While all common air fresheners we know emit some harmful compounds into the air, this product produced by ASEMCO absorbs harmful and odor causing compounds from air making them fresh again.

This is therefore the true air-freshener in a sense. On the economy side of the consumers, it is a cheap source of fuel for domestic and industrial uses. This project can provide jobs in local/rural communities especially in DENR Community-Based Forest Management sites and areas. It also creates secondary jobs in the upstream and downstream industries thereby boosting the economy. Unutilized and underutilized labor can be tapped that will spur the growth of local economy. Even the agriculture sector benefits from it by the demand of cassava starch needed as binder for the briquetting activity.

Carbonized waste cellulosic materials can now be traded by the poor population improving their way of living. They don’t have to go to the city for employment maintaining the culture and traditions. Since all the raw materials used are either free or grown by upland farmers, the gross income from the sale of “green charcoal” briquettes is practically all profit or net income for the upland farmers. Furthermore, it increases foreign exchange savings due to lesser importation of crude oil and lastly, it generates foreign exchange earnings trough product exportation.

ERDB has produced under laboratory condition, charcoal briquettes from different species and has piloted the technology in the community-based forest management (CBFM) areas. Trainings in different regions were conducted as part of the DENR’s thrust in bringing the technology to the uplands as one of their livelihood projects. Each site was provided with briquetting machines for the continuous production of the charcoal briquettes. The machines are being maintained by the DENR regional offices. To ensure the services to the producers and would-be producers of this technology, the DENR Charcoal Task Force has been created in ERDB, Los Baños, Laguna and with counterparts in DENR regional offices.

The prospect of wide and sustainable adoption of DENR charcoal is possible when the people realize its beneficial effects. Its advocacy therefore, is essential. DENR charcoal briquettes made from several species and species combination were already tested with regard to their heating value. For each region, locally-available materials were used. At present, about 30 species of wood and nonwood biomass can be used as raw material. Under laboratory condition, charcoal briquettes were produced from different species using a combination of 50% leaves and 50% twigs and other woody materials. P. Rubber and Narra appeared to be the most promising species for charcoal briquette production (for single species consideration) because they provided the highest heating value, the number of briquettes produced from a kilo of carbonized material; and the biggest estimated sales.

In Atimonan, Quezon, the yemane-tibig-avocado leaves+ipil-ipil twigs and mahogany-coffee-yemane+flemingia leaves-cogon-coconut shells combinations were the most encouraging since they provided relatively higher heating values at 9,234 and 9,954 BTUs, respectively. They also provided comparatively higher proceeds at P31.125 and P30.495 respectively. In Nazuni, Dingle, Iloilo, the combination of corn cobs + rice hull gave the best results, having a heating value of 11,524.32 BTU and an estimated sale of P33.30 from the 119 charcoal briquettes produced out of a kilo of carbonized materials. In Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, the 50-50 combinations of yemane slabs + rice hull and cassava stem + rice hull are the best combinations to adopt because of the considerably higher heating values they generated and their relatively higher expected sales at P30.00 and P31.50, respectively (Baconguis, 2000).

Using 10%, 12% and 15% interest rates, the Net Present Value (NPV) was computed at P162, 464; P149, 802; and P132, 812. The Internal Rate of Return (IRR), on the other hand, was 92% with an earning capacity of 1.16, 1.15 and 1.14, respectively. Such results indicate that the project is feasible and can be considered by upland communities as one of their income-generating activities (DENR-ERDB, 2010). Last February 25-26, 2013, the Epektibo at Responsableng Kilusan ng Kababaihan sa Bagong Laguna (ERK2SBL) conducted a training on charcoal briquette making last February at the municipal covered court of Pila, attended by 85 members from the 17 barangays of the municipality. The training is in line with ERK2SBL’s Eco-waste Reform Program and aimed to familiarize the participants on the process of producing an alternative source of energy by utilizing waste materials found in the community and to provide the participants with an alternative livelihood opportunity (Eleosida and Tiu, 2013).

Considering the recent innovations in briquetting technology, the growing number of entrepreneurs interested in briquetting, and recent commitment of developed countries to reduce CO2 emissions to the atmosphere by avoiding/reducing the use of fossil fuel, biomass briquetting is emerging to be a promising option for new entrepreneurs and other users of biomass for the next century.

For a sustainable development, we need to improve what we have today without imperilling the welfare of the future generation. It is also parallel to the environment; if we cut the trees or consume anything from the nature, we need to do something in return so the nature can replenish what it has lost and share the same benefits towards other people. However, many people neglect the duty intended and just leave the forests appearing as a wasteland. The true culprits might get away but the families or citizens living in the nearby places will suffer the consequences – landslides, flooding, erosion and even water shortage. Poverty might also strike those families and drought will most likely to follow.

The Green Charcoal Briquette or DENR Charcoal can answer this most prevailing issue. It does not only surpass the power of traditional charcoal but also the capacities of LPG. The project will not only alleviate hunger and poverty but also conserve the remaining natural forests of the country. From forest we take plenty of trees and from the emptied forest, we have nothing but wastes. But from wastes, we can create something that can save the human life – gold.


Baconguis, Santiago R. 2013. Production of DENR Charcoal Briquettes from Abandoned Biomass. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau. College, Laguna 4031, Philippines.

Baconguis, Santiago R. 2006. Enterprise Development from Solid Waste. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau. College, Laguna 4031, Philippines.

Baconguis, Santiago R. 2000. Production of DENR charcoal briquettes from forest wastes. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau. College, Laguna 4031, Philippines. erdb.denr.gov.ph/enr/i4d/t4d_uf_briq.pdf

Dignos, Romeo L. Charcoal Briquette as air freshener. DOST Region VIII. 01/27/2011, Thursday. http://region8.dost.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=82

DENR-ERDB. 09/15/2010. Production of DENR Charcoal Briquettes from forest wastes. http://www.scribd.com/doc/37452394/Production-of-Charcoal-Briquettes-From-Forest-Wastes-Vol-10-2007

Eleosida, Jesus R. and Tiu, Euglena C. E.R. Web Team. ERK2SBL conducts training on charcoal briquette making. 02/27/2013. Bagong Laguna; Una sa Lahat. http://www.laguna.gov.ph/content/erk2sbl-conducts-training-charcoal-briquette-making-0

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