Geothermal Direct Use in Leather Industry: Case of Baringo Geothermal Field

Emmanuel Oite and Bernard Rotich
Geothermal Development Company


GDC’s development plan is to facilitate generation of 1065MW from geothermal resources by 2030, of which Baringo-Silali Block is to contribute 300MW. Drilling operations are currently ongoing in the Baringo-Silali Geothermal Field. A prefeasibility study on potential for direct use of geothermal energy in abattoirs and processing of livestock Products in Kenya was carried out in 2015 through collaboration between GDC and USAID. The study recommended co-location of abattoir plants and geothermal fields in order to realize the benefits. A medium level abattoir with slaughter capacity for 200 head of cattle and 225 small stock per working day translates to equivalent quantity of hides and skins and hence geothermal energy comes in handy for value addition. Hides from livestock are potentially valuable agricultural products, suited for export. Markets for finished leather products have grown, with much of the impetus coming from the fashion industry. In the rural areas of developing countries, the tanning is often neglected or undertaken incorrectly, but can provide much needed employment and extra income, leading to improved livelihoods. Tanning hide into leather involves a process which permanently alters the protein structure of skin, making it more durable and less susceptible to decomposition and imparting thermal stability. In East Africa Kenya has served as a hub for leather and leather goods production for two decades, however it is currently a very minor exporter(0.14% of leather exports in 2013) this is despite Kenya being the third largest livestock holder in Africa. Kenya's leather exports consist of wet blue leather (89%), raw hides and skins (5%), finished leather (2%) and leather goods and products (4%). The most significant hindrance to development of the leather industry is cost competitiveness as a result of high energy costs, high cost of labour and high cost of tannery inputs. The heat requirements across the three stages of production can be offset using direct use elements. The categories include beam-house (26-28°C), tanning and post-tanning operations (26-170°C), and wet finishing (26-170°C). The use of geothermal generated energy and direct use technology during the tanning and finishing process will result in significant cost cutting when compared to conventional tanning methods with regards to electricity and thermal energy requirements.

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