Until mid-nineties, rice husk, wood waste, palm shell, empty fruit bunch (EFB), etc., were considered as waste in Southeast Asia. But today, in several parts of India, Thailand and Malaysia, it is difficult to get these fuels, at a reasonable price as they are in great demand in industries. The biomass fuel price in some parts of Asia has gone as high as USD 60/ton.
Demand for rice husk started picking up in the Philippines from 2006 onwards, especially, after the development of a 1 MW rice husk power plant. In some parts of Thailand, the price of rice husk went very high, when the demand increased. Recently, in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, the demand for palm shell is very high resulting in increased price close to that of coal. Few years back, cement industries were using palm shell to replace coal mainly because of CDM benefits and high coal price.
Though, biomass fuel prices are at the high end in several places of Southeast Asia and India, a huge amount of biomass is wasted in Africa without any productive use. Rice husk is either burnt in the fields or dumped along the sides of paddy fields or roads.
Open burning and dumping of rice husk and wood wastes are very common in several parts of Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and many other remote parts of Asia. In some countries, open burning is banned as per their environmental Acts. Greenfield project developers should give due importance for fuel security, throughout the plant life.
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