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A stove and a smokeless kitchen

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Smokeless biomass stove that runs on burning pellets made up of agricultural waste being used in a house at Aviyur in Virudhunagar district.
Smokeless biomass stove that runs on burning pellets made up of agricultural waste being used in a house at Aviyur in Virudhunagar district.

S. Sundar

`Oorja' stoves, promoted by BP Energy, run on pellets made up of agriculture waste

MADURAI: Over 5,000 rural households in Madurai and Virudhunagar districts now have smokeless kitchens. No longer do housewives have to put up with irritation in their eyes by blowing into the traditional ovens. Nor do they have to bear huge LPG cylinder bills.

Thanks to the `Oorja' biomass smokeless stoves promoted by BP Energy India Limited. Developed in conjunction with the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, this stove runs on pellets made up of agriculture waste. The success of a pilot study of the stove in Tamil Nadu and Maharastra, which began in 2006, has encouraged the promoters to expand their operation to Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. "Now we have got 25,000 customers in the country," says a BP Energy spokesperson.

The stove, costing Rs. 675, has a chamber for burning pellets. A mini-fan, powered by rechargeable batteries and controlled by a regulator, blows air to fan the flames. "The technology increases combustion efficiency and provides users with the option of using cleaner fuel," she says.

N. Muneeswari, of Aviyur in Virudhunagar district, says: "Cooking is faster with this stove. It leaves no smoke, so the utensils are very clean." For a joint family of five couples and children, the stove is used for making "sambar," "koottu" and "poriyal." They still prefer the traditional open stoves to cook rice in large quantity. She has almost abandoned LPG stove ever since she started using this one in August last year.

The stove has helped C. Kasturi, of Perungudi in Madurai district, cut fuel cost by 50 per cent. "For our family of six, we require 20 litres of kerosene every month. We get only 10 litres from the ration shop [for Rs. 90]. We had to shell out more money for buying another 10 litres in the open market. [Now it costs around Rs. 30 a litre]."

However, by using the stove, the family consumes only six bags of pellets (a 5-kg bag costs Rs. 20) and three litres of kerosene. This combination of fuel costs her only Rs. 147 a month, whereas she was spending Rs. 390 a month earlier.

"However, making `dosas' and `chappatis' is a problem, as the stove generates excessive heat. Besides, once it is lit, it cannot be stopped unlike LPG or kerosene stoves. Refuelling cannot be done midway," Ms. Kasturi says. The entire ash has to be replaced, and the stove has to be lit afresh. Though this can be done in a few minutes, Ms. Kasturi has learnt to finish cooking within the 75 minutes (the maximum burning time using 450 gm of pellets) by keeping vegetables and utensils ready before lighting the stove.

BP Energy India is focussing on rural areas where people have limited, or no, access to clean and safer energy owing to economic reasons or poor service.

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