Kenya’s diatomite industry targets European market
By Daniel Sitole
East Africa’s leading diatomite industry doubles its production to venture into Northern African and European markets. The Gilgil, Kenya-based African Diatomite Industries Limited (ADIL) is modernising its equipment with an aim of enhancing its production capacity by the end of the year, in readiness for the new markets.
“We are upgrading our production capacity from 20 to 40 metric tonnes daily. We plan to venture into Central, West, Southern and Northern Africa, the Middle East and European markets,” the company’s General Manager, Collins Kiptoon, said.
He added that the upgraded capacity, which includes installation of new machinery, will also automate some of the production processes. Part of the machinery being installed was imported from Asia, and the rest was locally assembled.
What is diatomite?
According to the Industrial Minerals Association – North America (IMA – NA), diatomite, also known as diatomaceous earth, is the naturally occurring fossilised remains of diatoms. They are single-celled aquatic algae belonging to the class of golden brown algae scientifically known as Bacillariophyceae.
It is believed that the Greeks used diatomite in pottery and brickmaking over 2,000 years ago. Diatomite products are environmentally friendly and have over 1,500 different uses, including filter aids in breweries, pharmaceutical manufacturing, motor oil, filter swimming pool water, glass industries, and agriculture.
The company manufactures high quality diatomite fillers and filter aid products for breweries, fruit juice processing, edible oil refineries, winery, pest control, paint, dry cleaning, soap industries, among others.
Some of its clientele include The East African Breweries, Bidco oil refineries, Crown Berger, CPC Industrial products, Delmonte,
Tanzania Breweries, Uganda Breweries, and several others in the region.
Diatomite by-product is used as soil conditioner in flower farms, and also for making glasses.
Some of the company’s brands are: Kensil 90 – a flux calcined medium flow filter aid used to filter beer, sugar syrup, dry cleaning solvents, water and fruit juices; Kensil 110 – used to filter lubricating oils, vegetable oils, and other viscous liquids, and also used for swimming pool filters.
“ADIL is the market leader in East Africa, and we now plan to globalise our products. We have brands that will be the most preferred in the world market; it is a matter of time. After all, we offer the best,” Product and Business Development Manager Philip Chesang said.
There are other brands such as Kensil 99 – a flux calcined filler Grade used as a flatting agent in paints, paper manufacture, and as a mild abrasive in automobile polishes and rubbing down compounds.
The company is also developing two products for the farmers: KENSIL Guard and KENSIL Feed. The KENSIL Guard is a diatomite grain preservative for maize, rice, beans, millet, sorghum and other cereals, for up to four years.
According to the company, there is no recorded insect pest resistant to the KENSIL Guard. This natural preservative does not affect taste or quality of the cereals, is not poisonous to humans and animals, and cereal pests will never become immune to it.
The product can also act as a drier, and it can keep cereals dry for a long time. The Kensil guard is a mineral powder, odourless, and environmentally friendly. It will take the place of chemical pesticides and fumigants, thus reducing the effects of chemical residues.
The company is also developing Kensil Feed, which will be added to animal feeds, for livestock and birds. Some of the product’s benefits include safety and it is non-toxic; it stimulates basic metabolism and controls worms and internal parasites. The product is extracted from rare diatomaceous earth deposits of high quality. Farmers can use the product to feed any animal or bird, regardless how young, old, sick or well, and it has no side effects.
The global leaders in diatomite extraction include the United States, China, Denmark and Japan. Algeria and Kenya are the leading producers in Africa.
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the US produced about 790,000 tonnes of diatomite valued at $179 million in 2009. The country has its processing plants in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
“The ADIL produces best quality diatomite in the world. Other countries lead in quantity, but we lead in quality,” Sales and Marketing Manager Rogers Oluchiri said.
The ADIL was established as the East African Diatomite Syndicate (EADS) by the Cole Estates Limited in 1942 in Kikopey, Gilgil, Nakuru County. In 1947, the company started exporting filter grades to South Africa and Europe. The company markets its product under the trade name of “Kensil”. The company’s vision is “To Make Kensil the best and most preferred Diatomaceous earth brand for the domestic and international market”.
The Kenya Government acquired the company in 1965 and renamed it African Diatomite Industries Ltd. The company was later privatised, and it is now privately owned.
The company continues operating at its original location in Kikopey, which was once a ranch of Lord Galbraith Cole, a brother-in-law to Lord Delamere.
Kenya is one of the major producers of industrial minerals in East Africa. Some of the mineral plants include soda ash from Lake Magadi, produced by Magadi Soda Company; Fluorspar, by the Kenya Fluorspar Company.
The country also has three cement factories, namely Bamburi Cement, East African Portland Cement, and the Athi River Mining.