DOST-FPRDI develops machine that could turn agro-forest wastes into fuel

By , on October 2, 2015

(ShutterStock image)
(ShutterStock image)

MANILA – The Department of Science and Technology-Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) has developed a pelletizing machine that could turn agro-forest wastes into quality fuel.

The FPRDI reported that the machine is set to be tested under factory conditions to further assess its technical and economic viability.

FPRDI researcher Dante Pulmano said the biomass pelletizer was developed because they wanted a cheaper, locally-made machine that could help wood processing plants turn their factory wastes into clean industrial fuel.

The machine produces 100-160 kilos of densified pellets per hour from mixed wood species, bamboo sawdust and rice hull.

Based on the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources estimates, the agro-forest wastes in the Philippines amount to an equivalent of 254 million barrels of oil.

The Institute emphasizes that the huge supply remains untapped since biomass residues are difficult to transport and these have uneven properties.

“For years, wood pellets have been used as industrial fuel in more developed countries,” Pulmano cited. He added that pellets are more suited to co-fire with coal since pellets have higher heat values than wood wastes.

He explained that pellets have become popular in industrialized countries because it is a renewable source of energy. “In 2013, the EU used 10 million tons of wood pellets for domestic heating and nine million tons for industrial purposes, while North America used four million tons. The Asian demand in 2015 is likely to reach up to three million tons with China, South Korea, and Japan as the largest customers,” he said.

Pulmano also noted that with more environmental groups lobbying against the use of coal in the industry, then wood pellets have a bright future as clean fuel.

Meanwhile, Robert Natividad, also from FPRDI, explained that the most common forms of biomass used as “substitute fuel” are wastes from wood processing and agriculture. He said “these include branches and stumps from tree plantation thinning and harvesting, sawdust, wood chips, shavings, trimmings from wood processing plants, and agricultural wastes such as rice hull, coconut husks and shells, coco coir dust and sugarcane bagasse.”

Natividad cited that they eye 29 active sawmills and 255 mini sawmills to be users of the pelletizer. “It is estimated that about 1/3 of their wood raw material inputs is generated as wastes,” he remarked.

Meanwhile, in the FPRDI’s website, it shared that a Chinese researcher reported fully replacing coal with pellets can decrease Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by 91 percent for a coal plant and by 78 percent for a natural gas combined cycle power plant.

It would also lower down emissions of nitrous oxides by 40-47 percent and sulfur oxides by 76-81 percent based on the report. It also cited that co-firing a mix of 10 or 20 percent wood pellets with coal significantly reduces GHG emission.

FPRDI explained that GHGs trap heat from the sun and warm the earth’s surface, making them prime driver of global climate change. It cited that majority of GHG emissions in the United States are related to burning of fossil fuels.

Pulmano shared that according to experts, if wood pellets will be used in the country to replace all the fuel needs of coal-fired power plants, the country will need 9.5 metric tons of pellets in a year.

Mark Quinn, chief executive officer of Clenergen, a company that aims to generate electricity from renewable sources, commented that the Philippines is in ideal position to penetrate the wood pellets market.