Sugar firm adopts innovative renewable energy system

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A sugar company in Negros Oriental has adopted an innovative technology that will utilize biomass to produce renewable energy.

The Raw Brown Sugar Milling Company Inc. in Pamplona, Negros Oriental has adopted the Fluidized Bed Gasification (FBG) System where agricultural wastes are “burned” when a limited amount of oxygen or air is introduced into the system to produce carbon dioxide and energy. This drives a second reaction that further converts waste material to hydrogen and additional carbon dioxide—this is the gasification stage.

“I see several advantages to powering our turbines with synthetic gas produced by ITDI’s FBG System. These are 100-percent reduction of our agricultural wastes, production of our monthly electricity requirement at no cost, and significant reduction of gaseous pollutants due to the near-zero combustion process of the FBG System,” said lawyer Alejandro Florian Alcantara, president and chief executive officer of Raw Brown Sugar Milling.

The technology was developed by the Department of Science and Technology-Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI).

The system is expected to provide around 40 percent of the company’s total electricity requirement. The plant produces nearly 1,100 tons of pure, whole and unrefined muscovado annually. Muscovado is produced from fresh sugarcane juice without using bleaching agents.

DOST-ITDI’s Engr. Apollo Victor Bawagan said the gasification of biomass, such as sugarcane bagasse and sugarcane trash, is “most interesting” because the produced synthetic gas has a near-zero combustion. Bawagan led the DOST-ITDI team that modified the biomass carbonizer technology for sugarcan bagasse to support the setting up of the a co-generation facility at the plant.

The DOST Region VII through the Negros Oriental Provincial Science and Technology Center provided P990,000 for this Grants-In-Aids project. Components include among others the design, fabrication and installation, testing and debugging of the 50 kilogram per hour batch-type biomass carbonizer.

The adoption of technologies to produce renewable energy from biomass is slowly taking root in sugar-producing areas. When sugar cane is processed into sugar and other products, a large amount of biomass or agricultural wastes are produced. These were traditionally burned that only contributed to air pollution.

Support from IFC

In August, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, with support from the government of Canada and the Clean Technology Fund (CTF), announded it was investing around $161 million (P6.47 billion) for the construction of three biomass power plants in Negros Occidental.

The three biomass power plants are expected to generate 70 megawatts of clean renewable energy for the country.

The power plants are being built in the towns of Manapla, San Carlos and La Carlota and will convert sugarcane waste to electricity using a low carbon-emitting process called circulating fluidized bed boiler technology.

The three power plants are expected to qualify for the biomass feed-in-tariff of the Philippines’ Energy Regulatory Commission. The feed-in-tariff is available to energy producers with up to 250 megawatts of biomass generating capacity.

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