21 Mar, 2009
From Yak to Energy
Posted by: Scott In: Pre-Rally
I thought I would take a little bit of time today to highlight just one of the many interesting projects that Mercy Corps is heading in Mongolia.
Mongolia is a hugely vast country with few infrastructure projects and very little government aid for those in need. Clean water and employment are in very short supply. Mercy Corps has been working in the country since 1999 to focus on providing basic necessities and assisting Mongolian families and individuals become self sufficient. One of the latest projects to come about has been the “Yak Tallow Bio-Diesel” project.
Mongolia is a land-locked country with a vast land area — settlements are scattered across its enormous landscape and separated by long distances. The rising costs of transportation and fuel are causing difficulties for many, but particularly for families living in isolated rural areas, who have seen fuel prices rise twofold or even threefold over the last six years. At the same time, air pollution from diesel engines has increased dramatically, prompting the Mongolian government to analyze and control automotive emissions.
The heightened fuel poverty and levels of pollution have led to considerable interest in converting yak tallow into bio-diesel. In the Mongolian culture, every part of the animal is used except the tallow which, unlike most other fats, is inedible. Only small amounts of yak tallow are currently used for candles.
Using this waste product would help to reduce air pollution, generate extra income for poor herders and contribute to a reduction in worldwide CO2 levels. There are large numbers of yak across many areas of Mongolia, so it is an abundant and renewable resource.
An excellent idea! Take something in large supply (the yak), and make use of a by-product that has often been relegated to the trash pile to make something useful. To top it off, it’s environmentally friendly, with most of the CO2 created by burning the fuel being offset in the growing stages of the crops used in fuel production. It also burns cleaner than regular petroleum or diesel gasoline and is of relatively low-toxicity.
This project will be funded through micro-finance grants to those best able to harvest the tallow and operate the conversion plants. This will allow the herders or farmers access to the initial costs needed to start-up a bio-diesel plant. Once the plant is operational the operators will provide jobs in the area and make profit through the vending of any bio-diesel produced. One plant will be able to process about twelve tons of yak tallow per year and will keep 21 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Good for the environment, good for the people.
More information can be found over at the Mercy Corps Mongolia Projects web site.