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Biogas Power / Cogeneration

Twenty years back, industries did not believe that they could produce biogas from industrial waste water and implement biogas power plants. But today, biogas power is very common in Asia, in several industries (starch, palm oil, ethanol industries, etc.,) and animal farms. At present, more than five hundred biogas power plants are already in operation in Asia. Several biogas power plants are at various stages of implementation. Even difficult fuels like giant grass and water hyacinth are used to produce power from biogas.

Today, more than 20 equipment suppliers have mastered the technology of biogas generation using their reactor designs in Asia. The most commonly used systems are UASB, AFFR, CSTR, covered lagoons, etc. However, gas engine suppliers are quite limited. Only 5 or 6 suppliers dominate the market.

The key reason for the sudden development in biogas power technology and project development is the technological development and revenue from CDM. However, in the last two years revenue from CDM scheme has been very low.

Waste water from starch industries, palm oil mills, ethanol plants, paper industries, poultry farms, cattle farms and piggery farms ideal for biogas generation and power generation. Biogas from MSW is becoming also popular. In cities, bio-degradable wastes are separated from MSW to produce biogas. Such systems are already in operation in Thailand, Singapore and India.

Biogas power Asia

Biogas power has high potential in the Asian countries due to the abundant availability of industrial wastewater and livestock manure. The industrial waste water is mainly from palm oil mills, starch industries, ethanol plants, sugar mills, food industries and paper industries. The prospects of biogas power generation is high in India, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines due to their favourable renewable energy policies and targets.

In Asia, China has taken the lead by setting ambitious targets. Targets for biogas electricity power production with electricity export to grid is 3 GW by 2020.


In Southeast Asia, especially in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, effluent from palm oil mills can be converted into biogas, which in turn can be used to generate power through gas turbines or gas-fired engines. In Malaysia, there are around 400 palm oil mills producing around 45 million tons of palm oil mill effluent (POME). It is estimated that the existing potential for electricity generation from POME will be above 300 MW.

In Thailand, the installed capacity of biogas power plants was above 40 MW in 2008 and the estimated potential is now expected to above 300 MW. In India and the Philippines, availability of large amount of livestock manure provides investment opportunity for biogas project developers to develop captive electricity generation plants.

Other Asian countries too have good potential to implement biogas power plants from industrial waste water treatment system. Until the early years of 2000, most of the industries used open lagoon system as the most common approach to treat their waste waters. Some of the industries used aeration ponds. But once CDM started gaining momentum, the biogas power projects became more popular because of their high CER potential due to mitigation of CO2 emissions from two streams namely: a) methane capture and b) electricity generation.

More and more CDM project developers, CER buyers and green fund managers plunged into this area, which led to a very high growth of biogas power generation in the last 15 years.

Biogas power Africa

Biogas generation from industrial waste water would benefit African society by providing a clean fuel from renewable feed-stocks and would help in alleviating the energy poverty. Unlike Asia, Africa does not have much experience in industrial biogas power generation. In Africa, the highest potential to produce biogas power is from waste water of starch industry, palm oil mill and sugar mill.

Apart from this, cattle farms and food industries also have considerable potential to implement biogas power plants. We observed highest diesel usage in African countries and even within the same country, the price variation is very high (upto 100%) from one place to another. Such situation is ideal to develop biogas power projects, as the revenue from the avoided cost of diesel is very high. We also came across projects with equity IRR higher than 60-80% in Africa due to diesel replacement in place of biogas electricity.

While developing the projects in Africa, the project developers need to understand that it takes more time to develop a project in Africa,than in Asia. The total investment cost is also higher in Africa when compared with that of Asia. But at the same time, the returns are higher in Africa. Industries and development organisations can play important role in the development of biogas power plants in Africa.

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