Protos Plant Oil Cooker Project to Conclude
Success hindered by stove operation and difficult situation with regard to sustainable cultivated plant oilConstruction plans and technical documents open to any interested party. Available for download here: Plant Oil Cooker Blueprints
After several years of development and field trials in various countries, BSH Hausgeräte GmbH has decided to conclude the Protos plant oil cooker project and to discontinue series production of the stove in Indonesia. Complex technical and operational factors, coupled with the difficulties in the supply of sustainable cultivated plant oil, have meant that the project has not met with the success originally envisaged. Started by BSH not as a profit-oriented, but rather as a social business engagement, the project aimed at providing people in developing countries with a healthy and safe alternative to cooking over open fires.
Over the last few years, the development, production and marketing of the world's first plant oil cooker has presented BSH and its partners with enormous difficulties. The stove went into series production in Indonesia in the middle of last year. Despite this achievement, however, it has not been possible to open up the technology to the number of users necessary for it to make a substantial long-term contribution to improving the living conditions of people in developing countries.
On the one hand, the stove was required to be of a high quality, safe and as easy as possible to use. Equally, however, this technically sophisticated device had to be cheap enough for people in developing countries to be able to afford it. The main reasons for the technical complexity of the device lie in the physical properties of plant oil. All varieties of plant oil have an extremely high flash point, which means that plant oil stoves require much higher operating temperatures and a longer pre-heating process than conventional stoves burning fossil fuel. Furthermore, due to its chemical composition, plant oil leaves residue in the burner when it evaporates, making regular cleaning necessary. Plant oil cookers therefore require more time and effort on the part of users than stoves burning fuel such as kerosene.
Despite the fact that Indonesia produces more plant oil than anywhere else in the world, it still has no established market for sustainable cultivated plant oil used as fuel, restricting the potential for a plant oil stove considerably. What the project has also revealed are the serious difficulties in setting up a supply chain for sustainable cultivated plant oil. Moreover, the low purchasing power of the potential users has limited the use of the stove to a few individual projects.
In light of the above, and after numerous field tests, BSH has therefore subjected the entire project to a rigorous analysis of its long-term success prospects, and has looked at all the possible options. Taking all factors into consideration, BSH no longer sees Protos as a device that can reach enough people in developing countries to ensure lasting success.
Nevertheless, the project has taught BSH a great deal about the market and about the consumption habits of customers in emerging and developing countries. The company will be able to apply this knowledge within its ongoing activities as a member of the UN's Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The aim of this international initiative is to find innovative solutions to the global health and environmental problems caused by open fires, and to improve the living conditions for people in developing countries.
BSH is opening up its plant oil stove technology to any interested parties. Construction plans and technical documents are available at Blue Prints.