Monday, August 26, 2013

Large Industry Use and Cogeneration of Energy in Uganda

Industrial Sectors
Major primary energy sources in industries of medium and large scale are oil and electricity, although some employ wood and charcoal. Many long established industries are employing old technologies, with the attendant issues related to efficiency and environmental degradation. Following the establishment of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), new ventures are required to meet statutory requirements prior to being granted construction permits. NEMA is increasingly being felt in getting operators to fall in line with law on good environmental practices.

Uganda is a predominantly agricultural country. Major crops have included coffee, cotton, tea, sugar, tobacco, cereals, nuts, edible oil and more recently picked up on flowers.

On the metals front, Uganda used to process copper for export, the main reason the railway line was constructed to Mombasa through Nairobi. Today, the story is somewhat different, with other limited metal mining activities. On the other hand, the steel making industry has seen more players coming into the picture.

Uganda used to be referred to as a country of the ‘three-Cs’ – coffee, cotton and copper. In the recent past, the copper industry literally drew to a close, although changing world market copper prices may change that in time. In the meantime, recovery of cobalt from the piles of copper waste was undertaken using the only cobalt bioleach operation in the world. Coffee continues to be one of the big foreign exchange earners, while cotton has been characterized by varying fortunes, despite being said to be only second to that of Egypt in quality.

The keeping of cattle in Uganda has in the past seen the emergence of meat processing for export, while the dairy industry continues to thrive.

Uganda is also endowed with limestone, with two cement plants, one in Tororo to the east and another at Hima in the west.

Uganda also ramped up fishing activity, with a view to cash in on export markets, albeit with mixed results as depletion of stocks is threatening the industry.

Industrial base to the Seventies
In the past, Uganda had a reasonable manufacturing base largely based in Jinja, with other centers in Kampala’s industrial suburb and other towns like Mbale.

Textile industry
Jinja was home to Nyanza Textile Industries Ltd (NYTIL), probably the largest textile industry in East and Central Africa for a long time. Having cotton said to be only second in quality to that of Egypt, there was a lot of cotton growing, feeding NYTIL in Jinja and African Textile Mills (ATM) at Mbale, both producing quality cotton finished products, with Lira Spinning Mill in northern Uganda, and later Uganda Garment Industries (UGIL) making shirts, t-shirts and other products in Kampala.

NYTIL and ATM once had setups similar to this

These industries used furnace oil for steam generation, alongside electricity for driving motors and lighting. In the late years of its existence, NYTIL acquired an electrode boiler, which was later to fall into disuse for issues related to grid electricity supply – tariffs and reliability.

Today, much of the textile sector has declined from its past glory, in some instances changed ownership and restructured somewhat.

Today, the cotton industry continues to exist, with cotton production patterns changed largely due to past wars in northern Uganda, but with many other small operators in the industry.

Coffee industry
Uganda has been a sizeable exporter on the world market, have grown the crop largely for export from pre-independence times.

Uganda has many growers of the coffee across the country, with 'arabica' grown mainly in mountainous eastern region, with much of the remaining country growing 'robusta' brands.


Coffee beans after processing

Many years ago, wet coffee processing was widely practiced, but, has since been replaced by dry processing, in factories using motor drives largely powered by grid electricity as thermal power generation costs have proved more prohibitive over time.

While there is some roasting of coffee, most coffee is exported in semi-processed form – dried beans with outer skin removed. 

Coffee roasting is also undertaken in the country, on a small scale, given that Ugandans are not a big coffee drinking community however. The roasting processes largely employ biomass on account of cost.

Tea industry
The tea industry is largely fully integrated, with plantations in close proximity to the processing factories. These use biomass for heating and electricity for motor drives and lighting, mostly connected to the grid.


Tea withering 

While Ugandans take more tea than coffee, the bulk of it is exported, through auctions at the coastal port of Mombasa in Kenya.

The sugar industry is one of the few groups that have seen expansion over time. Starting with two private sector companies in the names of Kakira Sugar Works (KSW) in Jinja and Sugar Corporation of Uganda Ltd (SCOUL) at Lugazi, a third one was set up by government, at Kinyara in western Uganda and has since been privatized. 

Cogeneration facility at Kakira Sugar Works

While these factories are connected to the grid, they use much of their bagasse for internal power cogeneration to self-sufficiency. Currently, the older two plants at Jinja and Lugazi generate electricity surplus to their internal needs for sale to the grid, limited though it may be. They also use some furnace oil for superheating steam.

Tobacco has been grown in the country for long, and British American Tobacco (BAT) setup a plant in Kampala from pre-independence times for manufacture of cigarettes, although this is no longer in use. 

Besides drying in direct sunlight, tobacco consumes a lot of biomass for processing and eventually furnace oil for heating in built-up areas. There is also great dependence on electricity for processing, handling and packaging in general. 

Much of Uganda’s diet includes cereals across the country. These include maize and millet. These are ground with mills, some at large scale using grid electricity, while the bulk of the rural ones off-grid employ petrol or diesel generators. 

A number of large scale grain processing plants exist, especially for wheat, but also maize to a lesser extent. The mills, handling / conveyance and packaging use electricity. Save for the smaller grain mills in areas off the grid, mains electricity is predominantly used. 

Edible oil
In the past, there used to be a lot of cotton seed oil produced, although vegetable oils are increasing in share, if not dominant. 

There are a few large scale operators in the edible oil industry. Most prominent is Bidco Uganda Ltd, a commercial integrated producer of palm oil products, with large plantations on islands on Lake Nalubaale known as Kalangala, previously going by the names of Ssese Islands.

A Bidco facility in environs of palm oil plantation

1.5 MW biodiesel power plant
A key feature is the Bugala Power Station is a 1.5 MW biodiesel-fired thermal power plant serviced by 16,000 acre (6,500 hectares) palm oil plantation.

The process-generated heat produces the steam that drives the power plant for the electricity generation.

Bidco Uganda range of products

Dairy industry
Uganda has a sizeable livestock industry, stretching from ranching, through grazing nomadic practices  to dairy farming. Way back in the sixties, Uganda once had a vibrant fresh meat processing and exporting industry in Soroti, to the east of the country. This however did not stand the test of time, in part attributed to depletion of supply stocks in the supplying region.

The dairy industry has however been around and grown over time, largely in the private sector, given that the government-owned facility – Dairy Corporation – was divested.

There are a number of milk collecting centres, some with cooling facilities that serve as intermediaries for supply to processing and packaging industries both within and outside Kampala the capital.

The cooling plants are run on electricity, and the processing industries predominantly use grid electricity. Delivery trucks/tankers shuttle between collecting centers and processing plants.

Steel industry
While consumption is estimated at 150,000 tonnes/annum, combined internal production is placed at 60,000 tonnes/annum. Uganda has modest reserves of iron ore especially to the south-west, but its exploitation is dogged by a number of factors, including but not limited to difficult access due to terrain and lack of rail access, and, difficulties of getting coking coal material.

Jinja, the center for hydro-electricity generation in the country, is home to two steel melting companies, both employing electric arc furnaces. Given the through the roof tariffs for electricity, these companies are facing a tough time competing with cheap imports, threatening their existence.

Given the rather limited supply potential and expansion for hydropower generation against a demand that is growing fast, melting scrap is a venture in the country facing tremendous challenges. Scrap is collected across the country and transported on trucks, grid supply that has often proved to be a challenge, low production levels plus a poorly developed end-product distribution network all add to the not so bright a picture.
Another two facilities are worth mentioning here, that is, a steel rolling mill in Mbarara, and Roofings, a producer of finished forms for the market here and in the region.

We may represent the group of companies with the following key players:
  • East African Steel: the original company, using an electric-arc furnace to melt scrap;
  • Steel Rolling: the newer electric-arc furnace operator, belonging to Alam Group of companies;
  • Sembule/Shelter: making constructional forms, subsidiary(ies) to Sembule Group of Companies;
  • BM Group: based in Mbarara, making construction products, with expansion plans;
  • Roofings: making construction forms, more recently established, on outskirts of Kampala towards Entebbe Airport;
  • Tororo Steel Works: for construction products, a subsidiary of Tororo Cement; and,
  • Tembo Steels: making construction products, located mid-way en route to Jinja, to mention but a few.
There are a number of other iron and steel ventures albeit small, largely involved in production of finished forms, mostly for the construction industry. 

All in all, we can say that the primary forms of energy employed in the names of oil and electricity are posing big challenges to the growth let alone survival against imports in general. 

Cement industry
One of Uganda’s endowments is limestone, a primary material for construction industry products. Two large plants exist, with one at Tororo to the east established earlier, and later on, Hima to the west of the country. These were originally established under government, but, later divested to private sector operators.

Hima Cement Ltd
Producing 850,000 metric tonnes annually, it serves the five present members of the East African Community – Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, and also the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Southern Sudan. 

Our main interest in Hima, is its adoption of using agricultural waste in the region to substitute furnace oil that is presently imported at great cost. 

From Uganda’s big-time foreign exchange earner coffee, the skin waste in terms of husks has been adopted to substitute furnace oil, achieving a volumetric saving of up to 30-percent in traditional fuel use.

View of Hima Cement Plant

Tororo Cement Ltd
Established in 1952, it has diversified to producing galvanized iron, steel bars and nails on top of the major product in the name of cement.

With an estimated 1,000,000 metric tonnes of cement annually, this industry continues to use furnace oil for the manufacturing process.

This plant also serves the same countries across eastern Africa and extending to Congo and South Sudan as the plant at Hima. 

These plants also rely on grid electricity, beside furnace oil, and in the case of Hima, coffee husks.

Fish industry
Fishing activity goes back to the times of our grandfathers. With the many water endowments, there used to be micro-level fishing from time immemorial to present day, where canoes are used on large waters as Lakes Nalubaale, Kyoga, Albert and a host of others.

More recently, there has been a build-up larger scale activities, with many fishermen selling their catch to small processors for export, especially of the 'nile perch' fish.

Many canoes continue to be driven by human muscle power, others use small outboard engines. The processors use electricity, grid where accessible and available, or resort to generators. Trucks that transport the fish to Entebbe Airport for export have on-board refrigeration units, run on petroleum products. Cold storage is also being developed at the airport(s), using electricity, grid when available.

Uganda was endowed with good forest cover, much tropical, but has been depleting due to over-exploitation without due regeneration efforts.

A number of timber mills have often existed inside big forests, processing timber for local and export markets. Such mills are invariably powered off diesel generators as locations tend to be far from grids, although some are located in areas with grid access.

There are also hundreds of small wood and furniture workshops across the country, largely powered off mains electricity where available, otherwise thermal powered, although to a limited extent due to prohibitive petroleum product prices.

Estimates once put rich forest vegetation at 4.9 million hectares, although this may be compromised at the present time.

Tags:  coffee, cotton, tea, sugar, tobacco, cereals, nuts, edible oil, copper, dairy industry, biodiesel, cogeneration, coffee husks, fish, timber

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