COLOMBIA: “Coal of the Future” Manufactured at Salesian Facility
(MissionNewswire) Six months after the opening of the biomass production plant at Villa Don Bosco in Santander de Quilichao (in Cauca, Colombia), the first hundred tons of biomass produced was transported to Switzerland in mid December 2012.
The biomass, made up of forest residual matter like pine and eucalyptus bark and coffee plant leaves, is compacted into small tubes or cylinders, then used in varied industrial capacities and to generate heat for fireplaces, stoves or heaters.
“This project is a dream come true,” says Father Germán Londoño, director of the Don Bosco Formation Center. “It came into being a year ago when we decided to build a factory to make biomass cylinders. We carried out feasibility studies and now we are ready to export our first products to Switzerland.”
In an area covering 1,400 square meters, five young graduates of the Salesian Center are responsible for the collection of raw materials from forest plantations belonging to the ‘Smurfit Kappa Carton de Colombia’ and from local farmers who provide coffee plant leaves.
The young workers are responsible for cutting and drying wood and running the machines which came from Switzerland, thanks to a donation from the Leopold Bachmann Foundation, in collaboration with the Salesian NGO Jugendhilfe Weltweit. Planning and construction were carried out by Swiss engineer Walter Item, who personally saw to the installation of the plant and training of personnel from Villa Don Bosco.
According to UNICEF, one in five children in Colombia have no access to education and half the population live in poverty—including 6 million who are victims of extreme poverty. The Salesians are working hard to educate youth in Colombia and provide them a path out of poverty.
Currently, 600 youth are students at Villa Don Bosco, where the biomass production plant is located. They come from various communities in the area to study cabinetmaking, motorcycle mechanics and take courses in electrical skills, baking and systems analysis.
Production of the biomass cylinders helps support and educate close to 3,000 youth from Villa Don Bosco and the Don Bosco Formation Center in Cali as well as provide employment for farmers in the area.
It is estimated that around 3,000 tons of wood cuttings will be needed to produce around 1,560 tons of biomass cylinders. Diego Fernando Mogollón, systems technologist and welder, is a graduate of the Don Bosco Center and was trained how to run and maintain the machines in Switzerland. He notes that the possible re-use of bark from pine trees, which was left to rot, and the contributions being made to protect the environment is a cause of great pride for those engaged in the project.
The advantage of biomass lies in it being a one hundred percent natural product that has no need for preservatives or additives, gives off no smoke, produces less ash, is non-toxic and has a higher heat potential than traditional wood-burning.
“A 30 cm cylinder of biomass is able to generate heat for around 12 to 16 hours,” says Paula Andrea Vivas, coordinator of the plant and industrial mechanics technician who graduated a decade ago from the Salesian Center. “So, we are speaking of reduced logging to find wood. This is the coal of the future.”
The sale of biomass cylinders is guaranteed for five years by agreement with the Leopold Bachmann Foundation, which foresees that all production will be exported to Switzerland. After those five years, the market could then be opened for sale and consumption in Colombia.
Salesian Missions – Colombia
UNICEF – Colombia statistics