Farm waste eyed as potential fuel source

by Riza T. Olchondra – December 3rd, 2015 05:24 AM

from Philippine Daily Inquirer

Agriculture is the new frontier for the country’s energy sector given the huge potential for the use of farm waste in fueling biomass and biogas power plants, industry players said, adding that the potential capacity could be enough to contribute about 10 percent of the country’s power output.

First Environtech Alliance Corp. president Ditmar Gorges said in a forum that farm waste and other organic materials such as fish innards coming from wet markets as well as animal materials from piggeries could be used to power biogas plants.

“Some of the organic waste that can be used for biogas plants are sludge from septic tanks, which is a perfect feedstock for biogas plants,” he said, adding that sludge treatment plants have the potential to generate thrice the power needed to power biogas plant.

Gorges said food processing wastes, whether solid or in liquid form, could also be a feedstock for biomass plants.

Using waste water from ethanol plants would also help the environment because it could produce waste water equivalent to residential wastewater of about 720,000 people, he explained.

Bronzeoak Philippines president Jose Maria Zabaleta noted that waste from rice, straw, cane and corn could be collected as fuel for biomass power plants instead of adding to garbage dumps.

“The existing volume of agricultural residues produced in the country, if utilized for power, would allow us to generate an additional 2,000 MW to the grid,” Zabaleta said. This is about 10 percent of the country’s current total capacity.

However, it might take “a couple of decades” to have enough capacity to pitch in 10 percent of the country’s energy output so the government and the private sector should both explore ways to make such technologies more feasible for investors to develop, Zabaleta pointed out.

“It’s not something that can happen in a day, or a year or even five to 10 years to build plants to displace 10 percent of our oil imports,” he said. “It will take 10, 20 years to tap all of our agricultural residues but we have to start somewhere.”

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