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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)

Assessment of impacts of the emission reduction measures of short-lived climate forcers on air quality and climate in SE Asia  

PI: Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT)
Co-PIs: Huang Xuan Co, Hanoi University of Sciences (HUS) Vietnam National University; Asep Sofyan, Institute of Technology Bandung (ITB); and
Nguyen Tri Quang Hung, Nong Lam University (NLU)
US Partner: Philip Hopke, Clarkson University
Project Dates: June 2012 - August 2016
Evidence to Action Supplement: July 2017 - December 2018

Project Overview

"Say No to Rice Straw Open Burning" is a summary of the project activities and results produced by Dr. Kim Oanh and the project team.

In Southeast Asia (SEA) the levels of strong short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs) such as black carbon and tropospheric ozone have been reported to be high and increasing, which may have multiple effects on air quality, health, crops, and climate. SEA is also recognized as a major emitter of both air pollution and climate forcers in Asia, with several typical emission source types of importance such as agroresidue field burning, residential combustion, solid waste open burning, and small and medium industries. As yet, no comprehensive study has been conducted to explore quantitative links between the SEA source emission intensity and resulting air quality, the associated effects, and the climate impacts within the region and beyond. To meet the need for data and analysis on the topic, this project will bring together leading SEA and U.S. research groups to study air pollution – climate interactions. The project will involve assessment of the impacts of various mitigation measures of important SLCFs in the SEA region on air quality and climate using a co-benefit approach and will generate a scientific basis for policy recommendations to integrate air quality and climate policies.
The concrete objectives and planned activities of this project include a comprehensive emission inventory database of key air pollutants and climate forcers for major emission sources for SEA, development of action plans for emission reduction, and pilot scale emission reduction projects for the target sources in selected SEA countries. Two countries, Indonesia and Vietnam, were selected for the emission inventory and pilot scale projects. The target sources will be selected based on the results of the emission inventory and should have the potential to multiply, such as agroresidue field burning, solid waste open burning, and residential cooking. Realistic emission reduction scenarios will be developed and assessed using a modeling tool. Through its involvement of researchers from Vietnam, Indonesia, and the United States, the project should create new knowledge on the interactions between emissions, local and regional air quality, and regional climate as it promotes the development of a strong research network.
Final Summary of Project Activities
(Note: Dr. Kim Oanh and her team completed their original PEER Cycle 1 project in August 2016. In July 2017, after a competitive review process, they were awarded a PEER Evidence to Action supplement to build on their previous efforts. As a side project associated with their work on their completed Cycle 1 project, the PI and her colleagues had received other funding to develop a technology for turning roped rice straw into pellets that could be burned in gasifier cookstoves. This would provide an alternative use for rice straw so that farmers would not just burn it in their fields. It would also provide economic/livelihoods benefits for those who would produce the pellets, as well as health benefits for people in the country and the entire region. The new technology acceleration supplement provided through PEER allowed the team to improve the pelletizing machine as a prelude to mass production, test selected pellet/stove systems, collaborate with a Vietnamese company to create a prototype and mass production model, work to build farmers’ capacity to adapt to the technology, and explore a business model for sustainable mass production. Following is a summary of activities under this now-completed supplement.)

Dr. Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh of the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), her co-PI Dr. Hoang Xuan Co of the Hanoi University of Science (HUS), and their colleagues received a PEER Evidence to Action Supplement in July 2017, and during the following 18 months they successfully implemented their demonstration project, “Turning rice straw into cooking fuel.” The pellet production technology was first developed at AIT in conjunction with the spin-off SUMMERNET project, which followed the PI Dr. Kim Oanh’s PEER Cycle 1 project in 2012-2016. AIT collaborated with HUS to conduct the demonstration activities in Hanoi. A local private company, Tuan Tu Agricultural Machinery Production, was the industrial partner that provided equipment and space for the pellet production. The rice straw (RS) pellets produced were successfully burned in a Minimoto gasifier cookstove (GCS) and the emissions were measured at AIT. Local farmers around Hanoi took part in field trials using the RS pellet-GCS system for in-home cooking. In addition, local residents of urban areas in Hanoi were involved in indoor air quality monitoring to compare the air quality in the kitchen and the living room when the pellets-GCS system was used, compared with when LPG cookstoves and traditional coal briquette stoves were used. In the cooking trial, a farm family was given a GCS and enough pellets for their cooking needs for a week. The testers appreciated the cookstove and reported at the final dissemination workshop that it was smokeless. In fact, 0.7 kg of pellets burned in the GSC for one hour could boil seven two-liter pots of water. No soot was visible on the pot after the cooking, and there was no visible smoke during the cooking. The ash left by the pellets was soft and could potentially be used as a soil conditioner. In addition, the indoor air quality monitoring also showed the advantages of the pellets-GSC system in terms of lower PM2.5 levels indoor compared with the traditional coal-briquette cookstove system.

Analysis of the production cost of the RS pellets showed that if the cookstove efficiency is taken into account (the RS-GSC system is 2-3 times more efficient than coal-briquette-traditional stoves), the cost of producing one unit of useful energy from RS pellets and coal briquettes is comparable. The benefit of using the RS pellets for cooking lies in promoting cleaner air and less fossil fuel consumption. Turning RS into cooking fuel also eliminates the emissions from RS open burning, which is a major air pollution issue in the region.

1-243 Rice straw burning

1-243 Stove

1-243 Stove Testing

Students from HUS visiting a monitoring site at the
Athletic Vocational School, Nam Tu Liem District, Hanoi.
The final cook-stove design.A local farmer tests the stove with his crop.
(photos courtesy Dr. Kim Oanh).
Overall, the PEER Evidence to Action supplement also supported three workshops, in September 2017, July 2018, and September 2018. The events brought together key stakeholders (policy makers, researchers, farmers, local residents, and staff members of NGOs and private companies), who contributed significantly to the promotion of the project outcomes. The PI and her team also met with government officials from the Pollution Control Department (PCD) of Vietnam and the Hanoi Department of Nature Resources and Environment (DONRE) to gain their input and communicate their findings and recommendations.

The protocol for RS pellet production has been transferred to the local company Tu Tuan to sustain the efforts. The PI and her team have encouraged the Hanoi DONRE to implement this alternative to replace the use of dirty coal briquettes for commercial cooking in the city. The cost analysis that has been completed also supports development of a business model to ensure sustainability and affordability. Although the project has been completed, the team remains in contact with the PCD, the Center for Environmental Monitoring of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and other stakeholders to further disseminate the project findings. The policy brief they produced has been distributed in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and the researchers have published three peer-reviewed journal papers (one with U.S. partners as co-authors) and one peer-reviewed book chapter (with the U.S. partner as co-author). Although larger scale implementation of the project findings remains a challenge due to funding issues, Dr. Kim Oanh and her group continue to link their work to other regional networks. The project team links the project activities to other regional networks such as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) to disseminate the project findings and attract additional funding.

The project website can be found online at