Thailand eyes Biomass
5 September 2013
Everybody is talking about carbon these days: carbon emission, carbon footprint, and global warming. As we are burning more and more fuels, we are damaging our world. Why don’t we burn Green instead? We can burn fuels that are clean, renewable, and cost efficiency, and this kind of fuel is called biomass fuels.
Biomass energy uses a biological organism (plant or animal) as its source. It refers to carbon- based materials such as field crops, dead trees, branches, wood chips, garbage and more. Biomass technology uses these materials to produce heat and generate electricity. It is a renewable energy source not only because the energy mainly comes from the sun, but also because biomass can re-grow over a relatively short period of time.
There are 3 primary ways to convert Biomass to Energy:
– Thermal– By burning biomass to create heat, it can be used directly for heating, cooking, industrial processes or indirectly generate electricity. In this way, biomass is burned in a boiler to produce high- pressure steam, which will generate electricity. There are three main thermal processes: combustion, gasification, and pyrolysis to convert biomass into various energy products.
– Thermochemical– Thermochemical is the process of heating plant matters in order to break down biomass into gases, liquids, and solids. This can be further processed to create methane and alcohol.
– Biochemical– In this method, biomass liquids are added with bacteria, yeasts and enzymes to cause biomass materials to ferment and convert into alcohol. During this process, bacteria breakdown biomass, and methane is produced and can be taken from landfills and sewage to produce fuel for heat and power.
For many people, the most familiar forms of renewable energy are wind and solar energy; but biomass is the oldest source of renewable energy. Until recently, biomass supplied far more renewable electricity—or “biopower”—than wind and solar power combined. There are some outstanding advantages from biomass energy:
Renewable– sustainability- managed sources of biomass can provide fuel indefinitely.
Readily available– an agriculture country like Thailand has a significant biomass fuel available in the form of agriculture crops and waste, forestry, and municipal waste.
Money saved- As biomass is a renewable energy source, the fuel is low cost. Moreover, the biomass comes from wastage from other process, so wastes are burned to produce energy.
Dispatchable– a biomass- fired generation plant can increase or decrease electricity production in response to demand.
Besides the above advantages, there are also some downsides to it.
Environment concerns– If not managed carefully, biomass for energy can be harvested at unsustainable rates, damage ecosystems, produce harmful air pollution, consume large amounts of water, and produce net greenhouse emissions.
Fuel is not free- it is more expensive than other renewable energy, because it is reliable source of energy and fuel is not free like solar or wind energy.
Require more land- Combustion of biomass products require some land where they can easily be burnt. Since, it produces gases like methane in atmosphere; therefore it can be produced in those areas which are quite far from residential homes.
Consume more fuel- the usage of trees and tree products to power machines is also inefficient. Not only does it take a lot more fuel to do the same job as using conventional fuels, but it also creates environmental problems of its own.
However, most scientists believe there is a wide range of biomass resources that can be produced sustainably and with minimal harm, while reducing the overall impacts and risks of our current energy system.
Thailand is a nation that is rich on agriculture and forest resources, which gives its potential for biomass development. It has significant planted area for the agricultural production of rice, sugarcane, corn, oil palm, coconut, pineapple, soybean, cassava and various ground nuts. This can be seen as the strength of the nation as the annual energy consumption has risen sharply during the past many years and will continue upward.
The 15 years Renewable Energy Development Plan (2008-2022) sets a target of achieving 20% of Renewable Energy of the overall country consumption by the end of 2022. According to this incentive, Thai government is providing secure loans, promotional packages, tax incentives and feed- in electricity adders to Private Power Providers using renewable energy including biomass, solar, wind and hydro.
Broadgate energy is working with a Thai Conglomerate to expand their current biomass facilities.
Looking ahead, Biomass presents many opportunities, but there is also many challenges that related to supply, environment, processing, etc., that must be overcome.
Do Ngoc Minh
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Broadgate Financial Group.