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FEATURE STORY November 1, 2018

Kenya CIC-supported venture creates a new market for bottled biogas

This story is an outcome of infoDev, a multi-donor program administered by the World Bank Group, with a focus on entrepreneurs in developing economies. This piece was originally published on January 16, 2015. 

In Kiserian, Kenya, the Keekonyoike Slaughterhouse has found clever ways of turning waste into affordable biogas and packaging it for distribution. After receiving technical and financial support from the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC), the venture is ready to enter the national market and expand its production capacity with a second biogas plant.

Keekonyokie is a company that began its operations in 1982. It runs an abattoir that slaughters about 100 cows per day to meet the meat demand in Nairobi and its environs. In 2008, the company constructed two 20-foot-deep biogas digesters to help manage the abattoir waste while producing clean and affordable biogas for the plant. Within a short time, the biogas produced from the digesters was more than the company could absorb. The company managers started thinking of alternative ways to compress and bottle the excess biogas, but they needed support to test the technical and commercial viability of their ideas.

When infoDev’s Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) opened its doors in October 2012, Keekonyokie was one of the first companies to be admitted. With the support of the center, the company tested several alternatives and refined its biogas production and distribution systems. To facilitate transport, the firm started storing the fuel in recycled cylinders and used tires, reducing even further the environmental impact of the operation – to date, the biogas plant is expected to cut methane emissions by more than 360,000 kilograms per year, the equivalent of almost 2,000 passenger vehicles.

The company is now ready to enter the national market, selling the first cylinders at an initial cost of Ksh 3,700 (US$44) for the 6kg-cylinder and Ksh 700 (US$8) for a single refill - exactly half the cost of a similar quantity of LPG.

The initial production capacity for the bottled biogas will be 100 cylinders per day and the biogas will be available through outlets in Kiserian, Ngong and Ongata Rongai. As it is, the indicative demand for the gas is much higher than the quantity that the plant can produce. The good news is that Keekonyoike has a 30-acre piece of land where the company managers are planning to build a second abattoir that will increase the biogas production by five times.  

The ultimate goal,” says Keekonyoike’s technical manager Michael Kibue, “is to make sure that women can purchase biogas in cylinders in the same manner that they purchase liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).”

Indeed, the project has already showed significant benefits for the people at the base of the pyramid, for women in particular. A group of talented women from Kenya’s largest slum for example produces yogurt to earn income. After hearing of the Keekonyoike’s biogas, they are planning to replace the firewood used in the sterilization process with this cheaper - and less harmful - solution. They were so impressed by this innovative idea that they have dubbed it "okoa mama" ("save mothers") in recognition of its immense value to the poor of their community who struggle to gain access to clean and affordable fuel. The women are also considering to partner with Keekonyokie and become distributors of the bottled gas in the slum; they are sure that this affordable and portable form of biogas will be a big hit in their local community.

With the support of the Kenya CIC, innovative clean-tech ventures like the Keekonyoike Slaughterhouse can keep growing and can provide locally relevant solutions to climate change while creating jobs and improving lives. The center has been supporting local climate-tech ventures - there are already more than 80 - with financing mechanisms, advisory services and targeted policy support aimed at creating greater incentives for the adoption of clean fuels.