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Punjab can produce 5,000MW from biomass: report

Punjab has the potential to produce 3,000-5,000 MW of electricity from biomass the province generates annually as agricultural waste states a report “Identification of Biomass Potential in Punjab,” prepared by German NGO GIZ.

Most of the 35 million ton biomass generated annually in Punjab goes waste through inefficient burning, the report said.

The main contributors to biomass are bagasse, rice straw and husk, cotton waste, barley residue, maize stalks and leaves, and millet and sorghum stalks.

Sugarcane provides two major crop wastes; barbojo – the leaves and stalks of the cane and bagasse – the dry pulpy residue left after the extraction of juice from sugarcane. The cotton crop also gives significant residue in the form of stalks and husks.

“We carried out detailed survey of all the36 districts of the province to find out the amount of biomass that is available,” said Amir Butt of GIZ who was member of the team that prepared the report after painstaking research. He said the currently available power potential by using biomass as fuel is around 3,000 MW. This could increase to 5,000 MW if the sugar mills consume 97 percent of the available bagasse in highly efficient boilers.

Sugar mills produce around 30-32 million tons of bagasse each year during the sugar cane crushing season. The mills sell only 30,000 tons of bagasse in the market and consume the rest for power generation, Butt said.

Total production of each crop contributing to biomass was calculated in each district of Punjab and the biomass residue generated from the crop was also evaluated. The findings showed that the energy deficient province has enough potential of generating electricity trough biomass.

Most of the sugar mills consume bagasse in heating inefficient boilers of 12 to 20 bar. The Indian sugar mills have installed 50 bar or above boilers that produce many times more electricity, he said.

Punjab could produce 203 MW of electricity from 30,000 ton bagasse provided to the market which could increase manifold with increase in supply of bagasse that could be spared if mills use high bar efficient boilers, Butt said.

According to the report rice husk that contains 10.4 percent moisture content and 64.25 percent volatile matter has caloric value of 3,826 kacl/kg. Moisture content in cotton stalk is 20.86 percent, volatile matter 60.66 percent, and it has gross calorific value of 3,296 kcal/kg. Wheat straw has calorific value of 3,712 kacl/kg with only 6.34 percent water content and 61.73 percent volatile matter. Bagasse contains 25.25 percent moisture, 48.98 percent volatile matter and its caloric value is 3,673 kcal/kg.

Report points out that the efficient use of biomass as fuel would reduce carbon print in the environment. Currently, most of these biomass products are treated as biomass waste and usually burned in the fields. Biomass burning has a significant impact on global atmosphere chemistry since it provides large sources of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons.

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