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Adoption of Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln (VSBK) Technology to Tile Manufacturing Industry of Sri Lanka


GSA has been bestowed with the responsibility of adopting “Vertical Shaft Brick Kiln” (VSBK) technology to Tile Manufacturing Industry of Sri Lanka by the Sri Lanka Tile Manufactures Co-op Society Limited under the patronage of Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority (SEA). This is the first time that an attempt of this nature is being made to adopt this technology to the tile manufacturing.

VSBK technology is used in many Asian countries such as China, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Vietnam for brick making. VSBK technology has been proved to be 100% more efficient than intermittent Hoffman kilns.

Sustainability of the Sri Lankan Tile Industry is at stake mainly due to the acute shortage of its major fuel source - forest wood. Though there are many restrictions, legislations and regulations preventing indiscriminate exploitation of forest wood and transporting for commercial purposes, it is continuing at an alarming rate posing a major environmental threat.

Having realized the threat to the industry due to acute shortage of forest wood, some time back, tile millers partially switched over to relatively inexpensive and easily available rubber wood. However, nowadays rubber wood has alternative high value uses such as furniture, chip boards, plywood manufacturing, etc. Therefore, tile industry has to again totally rely on forest wood.

Another recent development of fuel switching by the tile millers is the use of saw dust for the ‘low temperature firing stage’ of the firing cycle. This initiative of using saw dust which is now considered as a waste product as well as environmentally problematic by-product, is a very welcome move. A recent study showed that the majority (around 87%) of tiles mills in Dankotuwa area of Sri Lanka uses saw dust. Average use of saw dust in a mill is around 140 cubes per year and hence the total usage in ‘Dankotuwa Tile Industry Cluster’ is estimated to be over 28,000 cubes per year. As a result of this fuel switch over, according to tile millers, avoided use of forest wood in the industry is around 75,000 yds year.

However, forest wood is being used for the ‘high temperature fire’ stage of the firing cycle. In Dankotuwa cluster alone, use of forest wood is estimated to be over 350,000 yards per annum.

Though the supply restrictions and the price escalation of fuel is beyond control, Tile Industry continues to use age old technologies which are very inefficient whereas even the countries in our region use more efficient kilns.

One such low cost and energy efficient technology is the ‘Vertical Shaft Brick Kilns’ (VSBK) now used in countries such as China, India and Vietnam for brick making. Continuous type VSBK are said to be 100% more efficient than intermittent Hoffman kilns.

Having realized the threat to the industry due to acute shortage of forest wood and the use of inefficient technologies, some millers on their own explored the possibility of adopting more energy efficient firing technologies such as VSBK.

Having also understood that Vietnam is more successful in adopting the VSBK technology compared to other countries and more importantly indigenizing the same to suit local conditions in a relatively short span of time, Tile Manufacturers Co-op Society Ltd decided to adopt the technology by obtaining the required information from Vietnam. A highly welcoming response was received from Vietnam for a request from Sri Lanka to obtain details of this technology by providing opportunity for a Sri Lankan study team to have a fact finding mission in Vietnam from 8th to 11th October 2008.

Sri Lankan Delegation with the Officers of a Tile Mill in Vietnam

Since the introduction of VSBK technology to Vietnam in 2002, during the past 6 years, Vietnam now has over 600 such kilns all over the country.

It is believed that the exposure of the Sri Lankan delegation to the operations of VSBK in Vietnam would greatly contribute for its adoption not only for the Sri Lankan Tile Manufacturing industry but also to Sri Lankan Brick Manufacturing Industry which is mostly operative in rural areas making use of age old and highly inefficient and environmentally harmful “clamp kilns”.

VINASME (Vietnam Association of Small & Medium Enterprises) and CBC (The Centre for Business Entities and Communities Development) coordinated the entire programme with the invitation of M/s Gamini Senanayake Association Private Limited.

It is expected to complete the project by August 2009.


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