Govt looks to biomass to Meet energy shortage

Published: February 10, 2019


LAHORE: Punjab government has decided to carry out another feasibility study for the planning and construction of a 15-20MW biomass based thermal power project near Chak Jhumra in Faisalabad.

Official documents made available to The Express Tribune highlight that the project has various advantages, like energy from renewable resources including hydro, wind, biomass and biogas and solar. It is clean and cheaper and can therefore keep tariffs at an affordable range.

However, with major hydropower projects likely to come into operation in the long run, emphasis is being laid on the development of small-scale renewable resources for immediate relief from the energy shortfall. The Punjab government has already embarked to develop small hydro and solar power projects in the public and private sector. It also intends to exploit biomass resource for electricity production.

Documents highlight that the proposed project will have lower tariffs and plant costs comparable with RFO-based power plants. It will use indigenous resources and save foreign exchange. They added that four units (Kwh) will save the import of one litre of oil and reduced harmful environmental impacts.

They indicated that crop residue and wooden plants, with no timber value, are the largest sources of biomass energy and can be used for fuel and to produce gas. By burning crop residue and wooden plants, steam is generated and used for producing electricity through turbines and generators.

Biomass energy resources include crop residue left in the field after harvesting. The residue left behind includes that of crops such as wheat and rice straw, cotton sticks and corn stovers. In addition, there is also crop waste generated by processing industries such as rice husk and bagasse etc. Punjab is blessed with fertile alluvial soils totaling 51 million acres of land. Of these, 33 million acres are cultivated to grow all types of crops. It has been estimated that 50 million tons of residue/waste is produced every year from major crops, including 6.88 million tons from sugarcane bagasse.

This bagasse is being used for power generation by the sugar industry and consequently, the remaining 43 million tons of crop waste is available in the province. A part of the available crop residue (5-10%) is wasted during collection and transportation. Thus, the net available waste for local consumption is about 39 million tons. Among major crops biomass, cotton stalk is partially used in the domestic sector, brick kiln industry, boilers and also incorporated into the soil as organic matter.

Wheat straw is mainly used for animal feed, the paper industry and is also burnt in fields causing environmental problems. Similarly corn pith, stover and rice straw are also used as fuel for industrial and domestic needs. Therefore, excluding domestic consumption and commercial usage, the net available resource potential of four crops i.e. wheat, cotton, rice and corn for biomass power generation is estimated at about 10.942 million tons.

Documents indicate the project is aimed at providing additional power to the National Grid by using crop residue/biomass waste for production of affordable electric power and to help narrow the gap in supply and demand.

The objective of the study is to update the prefeasibility study to formulate a bankable technoeconomic feasibility report, PC-I, management of bidding process on EPC mode and construction supervision for a 15-20 MW biomass based thermal power project.

Documents highlight that the Punjab Agriculture Department had carried out a prefeasibility study for the same project in 2014. However, during review, the Punjab Power Development Company (PPDCL) found several deficiencies and suggested there was a need to update the study to formulate a bankable document before proceeding with the project in implementation mode.

After approval of the project from the Provincial Development Working Party (PDWP) in December 2014, the PPDCL hired a consultant and matched the consultant’s evaluated price of Rs151 million to update the prefeasibility study.

Documents show that for the purpose of updating the pre-feasibility study received from the provincial Agriculture Department, the consultant carried out site-specific investigations on the same 37 acres of AARI land in village 155 R/B Sahianwala, tehsil Chak Jhumra, that had been approved in the summary and recommended in the study carried out by the Agriculture Department.

The draft feasibility study submitted by the consultant had been placed before the panel of experts of the Punjab Power Development Board (PPDB) and was still pending with that office. However, the district government of Faisalabad re-notified the land for the planned establishment of a new international airport in the area due to its proximity to the Faisalabad Expressway and M-3 Industrial Park.

In the meeting of panel of experts of the PPDB, it was resolved that due to change in location of the project site, geotech investigation, topographic survey, grid interconnection studies, environmental impact assessment report and project layout must be carried out afresh on the alternate project site and incorporated in the feasibility study report for its approval.

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