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Alternative Fuels for the Brick Industry

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Alternative Fuels for the Brick Industry

Though natural gas is widely used as an energy source in the brick industry worldwide, however, one can’t possibly deny the significance of the alternative fuels.  Alternative fuels such as biogas, biomass and its derivative fuels, on the other hand, have the potential to shield the brick manufacturers from the fluctuating price of the natural gas in the market. Also, renewable energy sources can be cheaper than the natural gas itself if all the factors are considered. In this era of science and technology where the governments are more focused on the environmental impact of industrialization, alternative fuels such as biogas and biomass-derived fuel can be really helpful for the industries struggling to meet the strict environmental standards and regulations imposed by the local governments. The brick industry is also required to meet the stringent standards and regulations therefore the brick manufacturing should focus on alternative fuels such as renewable energy sources in terms of environmental impact and energy efficiency solutions.


In earlier times, fired bricks were manufactured by utilizing the renewable energy source i.e. wood. Now it is mainly used in developing countries with a few exceptions such as to create appropriate atmospheric conditions in kilns for color effects on facing bricks. In Europe and US, some brick manufacturing plants operate on landfill gas while some in Europe run on recycled lubricants. Despite the diversity of available fuels, there are two methods in which fuel is introduced into the brick making process:

  • As an external fuel i.e. fuel combusted with the aid of burner.
  • As an internal, body fuel i.e. mixed with clay.

Also, there are three types of fuels based on the physical properties i.e. solid, liquid and gaseous fuels. Gaseous fuels can only be used as external fuels while solid and liquid fuels can be used as internal as well as external fuels. An overview of potential fuels for brick factories is given in the following tables.


Potential fossil and substitutive fuels for Brick Industry






Petrol coke Wood and similar Fuel from household waste
Anthracite   Fuel from industrial waste
Coke   Dried wastewater treatment sludge cake
Coal   Dried organic sludges







Light boiler oil Vegetable oil and fat Recycled frying fat
Heavy boiler oil Rendering fat Motor oil hydraulic oil
  Biodiesel Waste fatty acids
  Alcohol (methanol, ethanol) Synthetic hydrocarbons
  Waste glycerine from biodiesel production Pyrolysis oil






LPG Biogas Biogas
Natural   Syngas
    Landfill gas Sewage gas
    Pyrolysis gas

The use of solid fuels isn’t beneficial as it generates excessive ash within the kiln. The repeated use of solid fuel leads to the deposition of ash on the surface of the product and in the cores and could contribute to the health hazard of the user. 

The current energy trend in Brick Industry

Most of the brick industries in developed countries is utilizing natural gas along with other fossil fuels to meet their energy demand while in developing countries coal, wood, oil and other sources of energy is being utilized in the manufacturing of bricks. The current fossil fuel usage results in large amount greenhouse gases which contribute to the global warming. 


Alternative Fuels

Alternative fuels like biogas and biomass have the potential to effectively reduce the environmental impact of the brick industry while successfully decreasing the costs of fuel by cutting down the quantity of fossil fuel intake. Following are the some of the alternative fuels for brick industry: Biogas and Biomass.


Biogas was first utilized early in 1895 as a fuel for street lamps in the town of Exeter in the UK. Since then technology has advanced significantly, thus enabling the humanity to devise the most efficient systems yet for the generation of biogas. Today the generation of biogas is usually represented by single or two-stage fermentation systems.

Biogas is a mixture of different gases generated as a result of decomposition of organic matter in absence of oxygen. Waste matter from various sources (agriculture waste, food waste, organic waste, municipal waste etc.) is utilized in the production of biogas hence it is the cleanest source of energy. Purified biogas consists of about 90-92% of methane. Following table provides the composition of biogas. 

Composition of biogas


Molecular formula





Carbon dioxide









Hydrogen sulfide








Biomass is world’s fourth largest energy source, contributing to about 13% of the total energy consumption. In developing countries, it contributes to about 33% of total energy consumption, however in industrialized countries its use is rather limited with a contribution of about 3% of total energy consumption.

If biomass and its derivative fuels are utilized in the brick industry on a sustainable level, i.e. for cutting down of every tree a new tree is planted, their environmental impact is considered to be neutral because of the greenhouse gases generated during the burning of fuel is utilized by the planted crops or trees hence keeping the overall balance.