WASHINGTON, DC, April 22, 2021 — At the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by President Biden, the U.S. government pledged to help countries achieve their climate ambitions through expanding access to clean cooking.

“Providing clean energy to households is critical to achieving global climate and sustainable development goals,” said Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat. “Smoke from fireplaces, cook stoves, and lighting is responsible for more than half of human-made black carbon emissions and millions of premature deaths from household air pollution. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition partners welcome the U.S. government’s re-engagement in the issue and look forward to cooperating to put in place solutions that improve lives and protect the planet.” 

The United Nations Foundation’s Clean Cooking Alliance

Would it be helpful to add climate metrics to the health-based ISO 19867? Currently, Scoring Tier 5 for emissions of PM2.5 and CO means that safety is assured in average households. As the score decreases from Tier 5 to Tier 0 the estimated amounts of ill health from breathing smoke and gas increase.

During ISO 19867 testing under an emissions hood, the fuel use, thermal efficiency and emissions of CO2, CO, and PM2.5 are measured and the data is used to determine a ranking on the voluntary tiers of performance. ARC multiplies lab data by a factor of three to estimate in field emissions. Usually in cook stoves, the CO2 has by far the largest effect on climate change. However, PM (black to white in color), CO, methane (CH4), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), and nitrous oxide (N2O) also have varying amounts of climate forcing potentials. Currently, CO2, PM2.5, and CO are measured as a part of ISO 19867. ARC also determines the amount of black carbon in every test (using a filter) of PM2.5. Adding methane and non-methane hydrocarbons to the measured gases is not difficult. In fact, Sam is working on adding them to the LEMS right now.

The effects of inhaling particulate matter have been widely studied in humans and animals. They include asthma, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Particles can also have an extremely strong effect on the atmosphere by absorbing and/or scattering the sun’s incoming radiation, depending on their color. The black particles have an approximate warming potential by weight of 680 times that of CO2 (Roden and Bond, 2006; Bond and Sun, 2005).

Total global warming impact, grams CO2 equivalent on a 100-year time-frame, per liter of water boiled and simmered for 30 minutes, normalized for starting temperature and fuel moisture content. Inclusive of CO2 and all PICs.

When we studied the global warming impact of five cook stoves burning biomass, CO2 was shown to be the major component, as seen above. At the time (2008), estimates of the various warming potentials were:

CO2….1  (IPCC, 2007)
CO….1.9  (IPCC, 2007)
CH4….25  (IPCC, 2007)
NMHC….12  (Edwards and Smith, 2002)
N2O….298  (IPCC, 2007)
PM – Black….680  (Roden and Bond, 2006; Bond and Sun, 2005)
PM – White….-50 (Estimate – Bond, 2007)

Warming potential, 100-year, CO2 equivalents

  • When biomass is harvested sustainably, the CO2 emissions from biomass-burning are considered to be greenhouse-neutral.
  • Although N2O is a strong climate-forcing constituent, emissions from the wood- and charcoal-burning stoves were very low, contributing less than 1% to the overall warming potentials.
  • The data suggests that there are biomass stoves that can be designed to (1) reduce the fuel used to cook, (2) reduce health-damaging emissions and (3) address climate change. The considerable differences in climate-changing emissions from the stoves in this study should be noted. Large-scale use of cleaner burning stoves might well reduce global warming effects, especially when the biomass is harvested in a “carbon neutral” manner. (N. MacCarty, D. Ogle, D. Still, T. Bond, C. Roden, Energy for Sustainable Development, 2008)

Many years ago, Kirk Smith hired Aprovecho to help Rob Bailis from U. C. Berkeley update and add emissions to the Water Boiling Test in the 1985 International Testing Standards. The Water Boiling Test (WBT) measured in the lab how much wood was used at full power and when simmering water. The writers of the International Testing Standards defined the purpose of the WBT as: “While it does not correlate to actual stove performance when cooking food, it facilitates the comparison of stoves under controlled conditions with relatively few cultural variables.”

The 1985 Kitchen Performance Test (KPT) measured fuel use in actual households, and the Controlled Cooking Test (CCT) was a bridge between the WBT and the KPT. ARC uses the Controlled (or Uncontrolled) Cooking Test to develop stoves with local committees of all stakeholders, as recommended by Sam Baldwin. In this test, locals cook with their own fuel, pots, and cooking practices, hopefully at Regional Testing and Knowledge Centers under the total capture emissions hood. Using the WBT in the lab has been a good tool for ARC to improve heat transfer and combustion efficiency. The cooks, marketers, manufacturers and funders in the project have to make the stove. It must work for users. They are experts.

We now use the new, updated Water Heating Test (ISO 19867) to improve heat transfer and combustion efficiency in the lab and it’s great. We are directed to try to use the type of wood, pot, and cooking practices from the intended project location. ISO 19867 also has us test the prototypes at high, medium, and low power to learn more about performance. As said, there are many other variables that can only be learned from the local cooks and everyone involved in the project. How much the can stove cost, that chapatis have to be toasted in the fuel door, that cooks in southern India sit cross legged so the stove must be pretty short, etc. is information that is obviously necessary and field based. The idea is that lab tests inform the prepared mind of the engineer who then works hand in glove with the project stakeholders in their location to make an effective product.

Kelsey Bilsback from Colorado State University advised that lots of times stoves in actual use are operated at exceedingly high fire powers. We agree! When applicable we use very high power (and relatively untended fires with sticks gathered from the forest). We are trying to find out whether a biomass stove burning found fuels can be clean burning at the equivalent of 85 MPH.

Thanks, Kelsey! Good idea!

It’s fascinating to read the ISO 19867 Standards for cookstoves and I agree with a lot of it. Many of us in the ‘stove world’ were involved for years in creating those documents. One of the big improvements is testing stoves at high, medium, and low power while reporting the results with the firepower.

We forgot to do that in the International Working Agreement started in Peru at the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air meeting in 2011. Since stoves generally make fewer emissions at low power it was a temptation to reduce the firepower and achieve a higher score on the Tiers. Since firepower was not seen on the Tier scorecard, it was really not possible to compare performance. And as we know, people tend to like high power stoves. It’s so great that this problem has been fixed in ISO 19867.

How to get a Tier 5 score for emissions? Use a chimney.

Santa Claus in a chimney
Santa understands the importance of chimneys… Happy Holidays from the Aprovecho team!

The chimney transports most or all of the PM2.5 and CO out of the kitchen. Only “fugitive” emissions escape into the room. In ISO 19867 the fugitive emissions are used for the emission rate values. For unvented stoves, total emissions are used for the emission rate values. Just make sure that your chimney and stove do not leak.

It makes sense. Here in rural Oregon, unfortunately, smoke pours out of chimneys all day and night as folks stay warm with wood. Heating stoves can be very smoky! The airtight chimney and stove get essentially all of the smoke outside of the building where concentrations are and stove get essentially all of the smoke outside of the building where concentrations are diluted.

Now, of course, at ARC we try to combine high combustion efficiency with effective chimneys. We need to protect the quality of the outside air, as well. The combination is intended to protect indoor and outdoor air. If the outdoor air is polluted it is less effective in lowering harmful concentrations. Combustion efficiency is always great and to protect health it must increase when the outside air quality is degraded. In Beijing you don’t want to add one more milligram of smoke into the air!

An indoor/outdoor air quality planning tool.

Sam Bentson created an excel spreadsheet that explains how protecting indoor and outdoor air quality are related. You can download the spreadsheet here, and learn how to use it for project planning: aprovecho.org/portfolio-item/project-planning/