Why Bamburi Cement Is Firing Its Furnaces with Waste Oil

Waste oil including used engine oil, if not well managed, can be a hazard to the environment as a result of unchecked dumping. A portion of it is actually misused to adulterate fuel or recycled and sold off as cheaper contraband lubricants. This malpractice negatively affects motorists since the substandard products could hurt the performance and lifespan of vehicle parts. Likewise, the unfair competition undercuts oil marketers while bypassing the taxman.

Kenya churns out about 60 million litres of waste oil annually.

To provide an avenue for safe and environmentally-friendly disposal of fuel waste, Bamburi Cement through its waste management division Geocycle has partnered with several petrol stations to co-process the generated waste in its kilns.

Co-processing involves use of waste materials as alternative fuel to primary thermal energy sources like coal in industrial processes such as cement or steel production. It enables recovery of energy from waste.

Cement production is energy-intensive, with energy accounting for 30-40 percent of production costs. Traditionally, in addition to electricity, the primary fuel has been coal and petroleum.

Co-processing of waste in cement kilns offers advantages for the cement industry as well as for authorities responsible for waste management. Cement producers can save on fossil fuel and raw material consumption, contributing to a more eco-efficient manufacturing. Also, this waste recovery method uses an existing facility, eliminating the need to invest in a new, purpose-built incinerator or secure landfill site.

Africa Sustainability Matters reached out to Janet Ruto—the business development manager at Geocycle to shed more light on their waste oil handling business.

Here are the excerpts:

Tell us a bit about Geocycle

Geocycle is a provider of industrial, pharmaceutical, agricultural and municipal waste management services worldwide, not just in Kenya. We apply the proven technology of ‘co-processing’ and utilise existing facilities in the cement industry to resolve waste challenges sustainably. Geocycle has operations in more than 60 countries globally and operates under Bamburi Cement here in Kenya.

How many oil marketers in Kenya have oil waste disposal agreement with Geocycle?

Oil marketers that are served by Geocycle are all under the Petroleum Institute of East Africa (PIEA) umbrella. This includes Vivo Energy Kenya where we collect and safely dispose petroleum waste from Shell service stations across the country and from Vivo’s commercial customers.

Describe the process involved in collecting and disposing fuel waste in Bamburi kilns

  • First, the waste oil is stored in drums/tanks at the generating points, mainly petrol stations, garages and transporters. They then inform us of accumulated waste on a regular basis.
  • Geocycle has put in place an elaborate system of tracking, collecting, and transportation of the used oil from waste sites to Bamburi Cement kilns for disposal through co-processing. 

 What happens to the fuel waste once disposed at Bamburi?

Here, we do co-processing, which involves recycling of minute fractions or raw materials and simultaneous recovery of energy, leaving zero residues. Co-processing offers a superior environment solution due to the high temperatures in the kilns during the burning of waste. The excess oxygen and long residence time completely destroys waste material leaving no residue. The process is considered one of the most environmentally-sound ways of waste oil disposal.

Geocycle had plans to expand its collection and disposal of used engine oils to vehicle manufacturers and dealers, thermal plants (heavy fuel oil) and airlines. How is this plan coming along?

The plan is going on very well and a number of big consumers, transporters and major car manufacturers are on board either through PIEA or with direct agreements with Geocycle. 

Has Covid-19 pandemic interrupted your waste collection and disposal? Please provide figures if there is a drop in the amount of litres processed

Yes, it had a temporary impact for the last four months when travel restrictions were in place and inter-county movement was limited.

What impact has Geocycle had on the society?

We have provided an efficient process of cleaning up the environment and dealing with waste. At the same time, we have provided jobs to many people and the informal sectors that are involved in waste collection and management.

Highlight the challenges in the sector

There are quite a number, actually.

  • Recycling of used oil,some of which is repackaged as counterfeit lubes.
  • Poor storage of used oil at generating sites which leads to the waste getting contaminated with water and sometimes spilling and contaminating soil.
  • Most oil changes take place at informal/Jua Kali uncontrolled garages which are not easy to access and expensive to collect.
  • Some generators of waste oil sell the used oil and thus consider it a revenue stream.
  • No existing legal mechanisms of enforcing both compliance and financing of the used oil collection process.

Read also: Missing policy links choke eco-solutions

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