The use of biomass as fuel is not new to Pakistan. In fact, I still remember train journeys from Karachi (in the very south of the country) to Rawalpindi (north of the country) during which I would intently watch the village women making patties of cow-dung, straw and clay to dry and use as home cooking fuel. Unfortunately it was a relatively inefficient use of the bio-mass and caused severe indoor air pollution with well documented adverse health effects.
Well, times have changed, and with the double whammy of high cost of fuel and the shortage of power, not just individual consumers but even industries are hard-pressed to find ways to utilize their waste biomass in productive ways. Conversion of biomass to syn-gas which can then be either burnt to drive turbines, or converted via fischer-tropsh type reactions into value added chemicals and fuels, has recently gained a lot of attention worldwide. Entrepreneurs and investors alike are flocking to technologies that promise higher efficiencies or better yields of valuable products.
Pakistan has now entered the field and in good form. The first sugarcane-waste bio-gas plant is now operating at the site of Shakaranj Mills in Jhang and is producing 8MW of co-generated energy (Source). According to the Cleantech Group:
A new 8 megawatt plant in Jhang is supplying the sugarcane mill’s on-site power and heating needs.
Pakistan’s Shakarganj Mills has fired up the country’s first sugarcane-waste biogas plant. The 8 megawatt cogeneration plant in Jhang supports the sugarcane mill’s on-site power and heating requirements.
The plant is powered by eight Jenbacher biogas engines from GE Energy’s Jenbacher gas engine business, based in Jenbach, Austria.
“GE’s Jenbacher gas engines are known for their reliability, durability and ability to operate on a variety of different fuels, making them a popular on-site power solution for Pakistan’s industrial sector,” said Prady Iyyanki, CEO of GE’s Jenbacher gas engine business.
At a technical level, there are a few interesting things about this facility. Firstly, it is deploying rather proven technology that rovides the flexibility of using multiple fuel inputs. This would be helpful as other biomass producers look at replicating this process at their own facilities. Additonally, the excess power not utilized by the Mills itself is being put back onto the grid via a PPA with the local grid operator (Faisalabad Electric Supply Corporation (FESCO)). This is another step towards promoting distributed energy generation in a country which faces serious power shortage, and lack of access to federal capital to invest in the infrastructure. The plant also allows Pakistan to get carbon credits, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and try to reggister this project under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
The biogas used to fuel the plant is extracted from spent wash, which is a residual of the mill’s ethanol production operation that uses sugarcane molasses as a raw material.
“The Shakarganj Mills project underscores Jenbacher engines’ fuel flexibility that will be needed to help address the country’s serious energy challenges,” said Iyyanki.
GE Energy said Pakistan has a 3,500 MW energy shortage. The company said the new biogass plant will generate enough power to support more than 50,000 homes in the country.
In addition to powering the mill, electricity from the plant is being delivered to the national grid through a 22-year power purchase agreement with the local grid operator.
GE Energy also provided the gas train, biogas compressor and biogas cooler for the gas dehumidification process in the plant.
According to a report in Biopact.com,
Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO), as part of its strategy to bridge the gap between supply and demand of electricity and to promote alternative energies has offered a very attractive tariff for generation of power through biogas produced from molasses, which is directly derived from sugar mills. The benchmark set by PEPCO for such projects is Rs 5.14 (€0.055/US$ 0.082) per kWh.
The contract with Shakarganj Sugar Mills is part of continuous effort of PEPCO to search for local and cheaper fuel, as fossil fuel based electricity generation keeps getting more costly.
Sugarcane is a key agricultural sector in Pakistan, with the crop grown on around 1 million hectares, mainly in Punjab (62%), Sindh (26%) and the North West Frontier Province (16%). The sector employs more than 1 million people indirectly. Around 80 large sugar mills crush approximately 45 million tonnes of cane into finished products each year.
Shakarganj Sugar Mills is one of Pakistan’s larger sugar producers involved in creating a variety of products from sugar cane. In 2006 it produced around 130,000 tons of sugar, 80,000 tons of molasses and 35 million liters of ethanol. The company is diversifying into bioenergy production, focusing on both liquid biofuels and biomass based power.
Now that the path is paved by Shakarganj Mills, I wonder how long it will take for local entrepreneurs to take account and replicate this co-generation type facility at other feasible sites with cheaper and perhaps locally (or regionally) sourced components? The map (click to enlarge) shows where all the other sugarcane mills are located where opportunity awaits…