How Is Charcoal Utilized In The Cooking Process?

In many underdeveloped nations, charcoal is the principal source of cooking fuel for urban homes. On the other hand, in industrialized countries, charcoal is mostly utilized in the metallurgical industries and for barbecues. The average yearly usage of charcoal per person in locations where it is the predominant fuel for cooking is around 150 kg. The following are some of the benefits that end-users may get if they make the switch from firewood to charcoal in urban areas:




Since charcoal has a monetary value and urban families are often in a better financial position to pay for charcoal, the availability of charcoal in urban settings is typically greater than in rural ones. In addition, because of its lightweight nature, charcoal is quite convenient for transportation and storage.




When choosing a fuel source, affordability is still the most important criterion for families. In most cities, kerosene, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), and electricity are more expensive than charcoal. Hence many homes choose to utilize charcoal rather than these other options. In addition, like wood for the fireplace, charcoal may be acquired daily in modest amounts for a negligible sum of money. While the cost of purchasing one kilogram of charcoal is often many times greater than the cost of purchasing one kilogram of firewood, this is not always the case when comparing the prices of these two fuels per unit of energy that may be extracted from them. As a result of charcoal's higher energy content and stoves that burn charcoal more efficiently, this is the case. According to a study conducted in 2013 by ECO Consult and GIZ, families who use firewood might occasionally spend more money per unit of useable energy than homes that use charcoal.




Compared to cooking over an open fire with wood logs, charcoal has this additional benefit. When charcoal is burned, it creates less toxic gases than other fuels, and users do not need to pay as close attention to the fire as they would with other fuels. Consequently, cooking pots maintain their cleanliness for an extended period.


How is it that charcoal is made?


During the carbonization process, high temperatures cause heat absorption, resulting in the full breakdown of the wood into volatile gases, vapors, and solid char. This process is what separates the wood into several different components. The transformation of the wood into charcoal is almost finished at a temperature of 400 degrees Celsius. But, the charcoal still has a substantial quantity of tar, perhaps about thirty percent of it at this point. To get a final carbon content of around 75%, ideal for high commercial quality, extra heating is necessary to drive off the tar and raise the fixed carbon content. This is done to meet the goal of having a good commercial-grade product.

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A "kiln" is required to turn wood into charcoal. This process is known as "pyrolysis." The earth pit kiln and the mound kiln are the two most prevalent types of kilns. Their level of effectiveness falls anywhere between 8% and 12%. The Casamance Kiln, the Brick Kiln, the Steel Kiln, and the Adam Retort are all examples of improved kilns with a greater efficiency of between 25% and 40%. Kilns are discussed in more detail on the page that is dedicated to the manufacturing of charcoal.


Smoking Charcoal for Cooking: Health and Environmental Effects


In many African nations, particularly in peri-urban regions, the manufacturing of charcoal has been singled out as a significant source of forest degradation and deforestation. This is especially true in peri-urban areas. This is because, in comparison to firewood, the production of charcoal requires a greater quantity of wood and, thus, a larger amount of forest land to fulfill the same level of energy demand. In addition, to reduce the amount of money spent on transportation expenses, unregulated commercial charcoal manufacturing is almost always carried out near a market.


Yet, since forests can sustainably produce more trees year after year, the manufacture of charcoal may help to preserve forests if it is well managed and offers obvious economic advantages to the population living in the area.


In addition to the problem of deforestation, significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions are also generated during the carbonization process. The amount of CO2 equivalent emitted ranges from 7.2 to 9.0 kg for every kilogram of charcoal produced.


Technology advancements in kilns have the potential to boost carbonization efficiency while simultaneously lowering emissions of greenhouse gases. Despite this, the pace at which more effective kilns for charcoal production are being used is still quite low. This is mostly the result of the unregulated and sometimes illegal nature of charcoal manufacturing. Traditional charcoal producers have little motivation to increase their output of charcoal in regions where wood is available without cost to the consumer.


Charcoal production methods, conversion processes, and end-use technologies that are not as efficient as possible may all harm the air quality of the surrounding area. Gases and particulate matter (PM) are released into the atmosphere during the manufacturing of charcoal, the unloading of kilns, the gathering of charcoal ashes for briquettes, and the burning of charcoal in houses. These activities take place in areas that people work in and live in.


Emissions of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfate oxides, and other volatile compounds during the processing and burning of charcoal have the potential to cause respiratory issues and long-term illnesses such as asthma, lung cancer, acute respiratory infection (ARI), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Emissions into the indoor air that result from burning charcoal in stoves are far lower than those from burning firewood in conventional or modified stoves.

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