Fired clay brick is one of the main building materials used in India. The country has the world’s second largest brick manufacturing industry after China. There are an estimated 100,000 or more brick kilns, producing about 150-200 billion bricks annually, employing about 10 million workers and consuming about 25 million tons of coal annually.
In a first of its kind study, two Indian firms joined hands with collaborators abroad to quantify the energy, environmental and economic footprint of various brick kiln technologies in order to recommend strategies for developing a cleaner, more resource efficient brick industry. Study findings suggest modernization of India’s vast, employment-generating brick industry as one of the most promising opportunities for India to achieve low-carbon inclusive growth during the 12th plan period. The report, entitled Brick Kilns Performance Assessment and a Roadmap for Cleaner Brick Production in India released by Greentech Knowledge Solutions Pvt. Ltd., based in New Delhi, and Enzen Global Solutions Pvt. Ltd., in Bangalore studied five highly diverse types of kilns.
These ranged from the most prevalent – the “Fixed Chimney Bull’s Trench Kiln” (FCBTK), one of the most energy inefficient and polluting, to the least polluting, the “Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln” (VSBK), which is one of the least widely distributed types of kilns, “Zig-Zag” kilns, down draft kiln and the Tunnel Kiln, which was measured in Vietnam. Nine kilns were examined over four months for financial viability, energy efficiency and environmental performance, including measurements of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, suspended particulate matter (SPM), PM2.5 and black carbon.
“Collecting the data for this study was extremely challenging for our research team” said Dr. Uma Rajarathnam of Enzen Global Solutions, “but our findings will be incredibly valuable for mapping the brick industry’s contribution to air and climate pollutants, as well as to identify how to best upgrade and modernize this traditional building materials industry.”
The study further presents a way forward to significantly reduce emissions by modernizing the industry, thereby improving efficiencies and encouraging development of newer, more financially viable forms of brick production.
Replacing traditional brick kilns with more efficient ones was recently highlighted in a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report as one among a handful of measures that can simultaneously deliver near-term climate protection, reduce air pollution deaths and boost food security. The UNEP report concluded that if these measures were fully implemented across the globe, it would save 2.5 million lives a year, avoid crop losses amounting to 32 million tons annually, and help keep a global temperature rise below 2 degrees C, at least until mid-century.
The results from the present work generally support the UNEP recommendations for the brick industry, but this study provides important data that were not available to the UNEP authors. “In our study, measured performance data and good connections with the industry were vitally important for determining feasibility of kiln upgrades,” said Dr. Rajarathnam.
By measuring a broader range of kilns than were evaluated in the UNEP report, the study is able to suggest a broader set of recommendations, including specific suggestions on kiln conversions, an option the UNEP authors were not in a position to consider. One of the study’s biggest contributions is its demonstration of practical solutions for improving the energy efficiency of India’s existing stock of brick kilns in a manner that concurrently improves profitability of enterprises, with minimal upheaval in production.
The report lays out a game plan for cleaner brick production in India, offering recommendations such as replacing FCBTKs with cleaner Zig-Zag kilns and VSBKs by 2020. In the immediate future, Zig-Zag kilns appear to be the most attractive option because of low investment of Rs 5-10 lakh and an attractive pay-back period of less than one year to retrofit an existing FCBTK into Zig-Zag firing. The other technical recommendations are: preferential use of internal fuels by mechanizing the brick making process, exploring the use of renewable energy such as biomass, solar, diversifying product lines to include hollow and perforated bricks.
“The demand for bricks is increasing rapidly and is likely to touch 500 billion bricks per year by 2030. In this scenario, we call upon the Indian government and the Indian brick industry to fully examine the findings and the recommendations of our comprehensive report; several other developing countries such as Vietnam, China and Bangladesh have already initiated policy action to transform the brick industry and India should not lag behind,” said Dr. Sameer Maithel, Project Leader & Director of Greentech Knowledge Solutions. “The project team has started work on developing a technology package for retrofitting existing kilns and training modules to train brick makers, however, government regulations to phase out FCBTKs and a comprehensive national program to refocus the industry for maximum efficiency and technological innovation is needed for transforming the brick industry.”
Among the international collaborators, Entec AG, based in Hanoi, Vietnam arranged support for Vietnamese measurement activities, University of Illinois provided both measurement expertise and instruments, and Clean Air Task Force served as project coordinator.
About Enzen Global Solutions:
The Company headquartered in Bangalore, provides Consulting and Business Services in the life essential sectors of Energy and Environment. Core to its delivery is the elimination of wastages and leakages in the distribution chain; it sees itself as the liberator of efficiency. The company established in 2006 is playing a vital role in Environment, Power, Oil & Gas, Water & Renewable Energy sectors. The company's business portfolio includes the full range of consulting, strategy formulation and design, development and implementation services, process optimization with value addition, focused on enhancing productivity at optimized cost. The spectrum of offerings spreads across infrastructure development, loss reduction, revenue enhancement, IT solutions, system integration, audits, asset management, consultancy in policy and planning, project management, regulatory compliance, and environmental management. The company is recognized globally by organizations operating in this sector, having its strong presence in India, United Kingdom, Middle East, Asia and Europe. For further information about Enzen, visit www.enzenglobal.com
About Greentech Knowledge Solutions Pvt. Ltd.:
Greentech Knowledge Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (GKSPL) offers research and consultancy services for deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions in buildings, urban & rural communities and small industries. A core team of motivated and skilled professionals at GKSPL work in partnership with Associates to form multi-disciplinary teams to offer technical design, monitoring, market assessment, policy advice and training services.