Move Over, Oil: Animal Blood Is Catching On as an Alternative Fuel

Biogas from a slaughterhouse in Kenya can provide an entire community with green energy.
Jan 14, 2015·
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Slaughterhouses probably aren’t the first places most people would look to for green energy sources, but fuel made from animal waste and blood could start heating stoves in Kenya in the next two months.

For the Masai people of Southern Kenya, drinking blood from cattle has been a long-standing tradition on special occasions, such as when a man is circumcised or a woman gives birth. Elders and the sick also consume it on a regular basis because they believe it improves their immune system. The practice has helped make livestock something of a renewable resource for the Masai—and now, thanks to an innovative solution they’ve come up with, it’s being reimagined as a form of alternative energy.

At the Keekonyokie Slaughterhouse, employees started in 2005 to recycle the crimson-hued waste that comes from killing hundreds of cows, goats, and sheep each day to provide power for processing, sterilization, and cooling. But after taking care of their own energy needs, those running the slaughterhouse found they had plenty of biogas to spare.

After funneling the alternative fuel source to local hotels, the Masai were ready to provide the biogas to homes in their communities, Reuters reports.

The next step was to make the biogas transportable. Packaging the fuel proved to be one of the more difficult aspects, as the video above shows. When old car tires didn’t do the trick, engineers reconfigured gas cylinders. With financial assistance from the Kenya Climate Innovation Center, project leader Michael Kibue anticipates that these refillable containers will be available for sale as early as March.

So why is fuel made from animal waste desirable? For one thing, it helps protect the Masai bushland. This fuel source can eliminate the need to cut down trees for firewood. Making use of the animal waste will also cut down on the climate-altering methane gas—which comes from decaying livestock—released into the atmosphere, according to Reuters.

It’s cheaper too. The price of one refillable cylinder is projected to be half that of traditional liquefied petroleum.