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Fuel costs and carbon footprint of Essential Oil Distillation

Distillation operations using fuel – typically diesel or heavy fuel oil – have seen major price rises over the last few years, and the
signs are that prices are going to remain high, and that further upheavals in the Middle East area have the potential to send them higher still. Even without any consideration of political disturbances, it is clear that global demand has risen, and is continuing to rise, and this is likely to keep prices where they are, or to push them higher still. Fuel costs are a major in distillation costs, and enterprises have to find ways to reduce usage, and/or to change to lower priced fuels. New boilers and
burners can offer significant efficiency savings over old equipment, but important and cost effective benefits can be obtained by
optimising insulation to minimise heat loss, putting in heat recovery systems to make use of waste heat, using simple solar collectors to pre-heat water etc.

As well as trying to minimise fuel usage, enterprises need to consider their carbon footprint, and start to work on strategies to at
least minimise it, and then to start off-setting it. This is starting to become an important factor in the market, and will become increasingly so. It is much better to be a leader in offering carbon neutral product, than to be driven to do it at the end and not have the time to identify and plan for the best way to achieve it. Fuel used is likely to be the major source of carbon
usage, although if crops are grown under intensive systems, with irrigation and high fertilizer inputs, crop production itself may
have a significant carbon footprint, which will also need to be considered. Minimising fuel used in distillation will reduce the carbon
footprint of the enterprise. After that, the strategy changes to off-setting – either through the purchase of carbon credits, or the
generation of credits (such as through registered tree planting schemes). The costs of this are not great, but the beneficial impact
– both to the environment and the business – can be. As an indication, for each 10,000 litres of diesel used in a boiler, around 27
tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) is released – so that 27 credits are required to offset it.
Prices of credits vary depending on whether they come from voluntary schemes or formal CDM credit schemes, but at around
US$10/credit, the total offset cost would be US$270 for each 10,000 litres used. Alternatively, tree planting schemes could be
started, to generate credits. Schemes have to run for a certain time – typically 15 years, but it can be shorter – so that they may not be suitable for fuel wood schemes. In the voluntary sector RED credits (for avoided deforestation) can be generated, and
boundary tree planting schemes (around landholdings) are also accepted. Once the carbon credit system is understood – and
frequently there are locally based organisations that have made it their business to understand the system, in East Africa for
example the Uganda Carbon Bureau is a very good first point of contact – an appraisal of the business can identify a range of ways through which carbon usage can be minimised and credits generated to move towards offsetting the carbon footprint.

Enterprises that run wood fired distillation operations – either an open fire or wood fired steam boilers – also have to consider fuel
usage, as the same principles apply as for enterprises using diesel. Wood is becoming scarce, prices are rising, and burning wood is
generating a carbon footprint.

Uganda Carbon Bureau
Plot 47 Lubowa Estate
PO Box 70480
Kampala. Uganda
Tel/fax: +256 (414) 200988
Contact: Bill Farmer, Chairman

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