Monday, March 15, 2010

Let There Be Light

Bulembu’s Resident Engineer travels to India and back in search of a sustainable energy solution for Bulembu’s electricity needs. 

The bustling streets of India.
Situation No.1: The electrical power supply to Bulembu comes from the national grid which is erratic (read: it kicks off without warning or reason) and is getting more expensive with every month that passes.

Situation No.2: Bulembu Timber burns approximately 50 tons of wood waste each day from sawmill operations which is made of up sawdust and off-cut planks.

Situation No.3: 50 tons of wood waste can be converted in a “Producer Gas Plan” to generate 1MW of electrical power and 1MW of heat.

Situation No.4: When wood, corn cobs, coconut shells, rice husks or any other plant derived product burns, what is actually burning is the gas contained in the plant product leaving only ash once all the gas has been burned up. The “gasification process” removes that gas without burning it and makes it available to be used to fuel internal combustion engines or to generate heat.  

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = Fuel for engines coupled to generators with the gas that will produce electrical power to supply the needs of Bulembu.

So yes, let's say goodbye dependency on the national electrical grid and hello to sustainable, environmentally friendly energy solutions. But where does this process of producing electricity in Bulembu begin?

In India, of course.

Two weeks ago, in search of said sustainable, environmentally friendly energy solutions, Colin Cotterrell, Bulembu’s Resident Engineer, traveled to India - one of the world leaders in gasification plant development and technology. 

“[We traveled] 100 km north of Calcutta to visit a gasification plant in Burdwan that was running on rice husks, extracting the biogas to fuel electrical generator plants that supplied electricity to a large factory processing rice,” Colin says of one of his tours of a plant which has been producing gas from rice husks continuously for five years. “We met with the owner of the factory who entertained us with small cups of tea in the Indian tradition. He shared with us how his production costs had come down as a result of producing his own electrical power from rice husks, a waste product, to run his factory.”

Colin also headed north to Vadodara where Ankur Scientific Technologies (AST), the factory that had manufactured the Burdwan rice husk gasification plant, is located. AST has supplied over 1,000 gasification plants into 40 countries and Colin was given an overview of AST’s operation and the development of gasification technology worldwide.

Equipment at the Ankur Scientific Technologies factory in Vadodara.

Returning this past week Colin reflected on his experience in India saying, “We can now move forward with the confidence that we are investing the correct technology and that gasification is the way to solve our electrical power problem. More importantly it moves us from being reliant on fossil fuel energy to 100% green electrical energy without pollution as the ash from the gasification plant is an excellent fertilizer and leaves nothing to damage our environment.”

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