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News & Analysis

Using Biomass to Reduce CO2 Emissions in Asia

By Prof. Hideo Samura*

This advertorial is part of IDN’s media project jointly with Global Cooperation Council and DEVNET Japan.

TOKYO - Asian countries, especially the ASEAN countries, launched the economic community at the end of 2015 and have been promoting various measures for sustainable growth. Those with increasing energy demand are endowed with a lot of biomass resources.

Each country is strongly interested in biomass energy in the interest of low-carbon and is strengthening research and development efforts. Although the United States and Europe are advancing the introduction of biomass energy in all of the fields of power generation, heat utilization and transport fuel, the ASEAN countries are lagging somewhat behind. READ IN JAPANESE

However, Japan has made considerable advances in technological development, so we can promote regional cooperation and the exchange of personnel beyond ASEAN countries and contribute to development of biomass energy on the basis of an equal partnership.

The Engineering Academy of Japan as a public interest incorporated association, to which I belong, launched a biomass Asia project team in October 2013 to promote social implementation of biomass utilization in Southeast Asia. Let me introduce the important items debated there.

I: Utilization for biomass power generation and for heat

Biomass power generation has the following benefits.

1) Biomass power generation has highly stable power utilization rate. Its equipment utilization rate is 80% compared with solar power generation of 12% and wind power of 20%.

2) Because the amount of power generation can be proactively controlled, it can be a backup power source for solar power and wind power generation.

3) The fuel used can be transported, so it is not necessary to construct a power plant in the resource supply locations like solar power and wind power.

The co-combustion power generation with biomass such as wood chips and pellets, and coal, can take advantage of existing pulverized coal boiler. Therefore, there is no need to invest in new equipment and the power generation efficiency is about 15% higher. Recently Torrefaction (semi-carbonized) pellets are attracting attention as a method that can raise the mixed combustion ratio with coal from the current approximately 3% to 30-40%. This results in:

1) Good grindability that can be applied to existing pulverized coal-fired power plants.

2) High energy density that is advantageous to improve transportation and storage efficiency.

3) High water resistance for easy handling as a fuel.

For the reduction of CO2 emissions from the coal-fired power plants, which account for 70% of the ASEAN power supply source, I would like to strongly push for the technical development of semi-carbonized pellets and the establishment of an adequate implementation system.

II: Utilization as liquid biofuels for transportation

It is possible to increase the mixing ratio of the fossil fuel in Bio-ethanol or bio-diesel fuel (BDF). Recent attention-getting second generation bio-ethanol that is made from cellulosic biomass such as plants or agricultural waste as well as BDF from non-food-based oils food plants can help avoid conflicts over food.

However, the cost of raw materials and manufacturing for these is high. To reduce the cost of bio-ethanol, the promotion of technological innovation on scarification method, fermentation and distillation as well as inexpensive raw materials are unavoidable. Research and development such as the improvement of breeding and cultivation technology of the plant is required in the future.

III: The establishment of the Open Innovation Center for biomass utilization in ASEAN countries

ASEAN countries are the bearers of the global economy and have many common energy and environmental problems. However, it is practically difficult to cope with these challenges by one country. Therefore, I think Asian countries need to cooperate to establish biomass open innovation centers in order to proactively work on development of technology for promoting multilateral cooperation including people-to-people exchanges.

Although the current situation of biomass utilization in Asia is still at dawn but I'd like to propose the following three points for development in the future.

1. In order to build a low-carbon society to reduce the CO2 from fossil energy sources, it is necessary to introduce the maximum degree of renewable energy. In particular, promoting the use of biomass energy is effective.

2. The strategy for its introduction is divided into two and the efficacy can be expected from the both.

Biomass power generation and heat utilization: Increase the co-firing rate of biomass In the existing coal-fired power plants. To do this, the introduction of torrefaction (semi-carbonized) pellet manufacturing technology needs to be promoted.

Use in transportation fuels: The introduction of the second generation of bioethanol (cellulosic ethanol) and biodiesel fuel (BDF) is important and the mixing ratio to the existing fossil fuels needs to be increased. For its implementation, innovation for cost reduction in materials and manufacturing, system for securing raw materials at low cost and induction by policy toward the use of biofuels are necessary.

3. For the introduction of biomass energy in the Asian countries where biomass is in abundance, the system to promote biomass utilization by a broad-based cooperation between two or multiple countries needs to be established as soon as possible.

DEVNET JAPAN attaches importance to putting a halt to global warming and CO2 reduction that are one of the priority goals of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: It is therefore keen to work for that in cooperation with ASEAN countries. It will not only promote the introduction of energy creation and energy saving technologies in Japan but also launch future projects to introduce Japan's advanced technologies with a view to increasing food production and finding solutions for poverty eradication in the Asian region.

*Prof. Hideo Samura is Doctor of Engineering and Councillor of DEVNET JAPAN. He is Ph.D in Engineering (Synthetic Chemistry), Executive director at KRI, Inc. (formerly Kansai Research Institute, Inc.), Managing Director at JITA (Japan Industrial Technology Association), Representative of AIST (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) Innovations, and Deputy director at NPO Research center for Shaping the Future Technology of Environmental and Energy. (25 March 2016)


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