The need for replacement fuels.
The need for energy has grown drastically proportional to population growth, and 21st century energy demands have been very high based on global demands analysis. That growth will elevate even higher as world population doubles as near as 2050. Every day, hundreds of millions of tons of energy sources are burned to produce to sustain human activities. Should that activity be industries, transport or power generation such as coal for electricity, one way or the other, non renewable energy sources has been exploited at a faster rate. This trend is unhealthy for the future generation, environment and energy sustainability. Putting perspective into reality, non renewable energy such as fossil petroleum cannot sustain the world in the next hundred year period. The desperate need to sustain energy supply to meet demands resulted in energy companies putting over billion dollars in renewable energy production, some of the major energy players such as Exxonbil, Origin energy, BP has in the recent times invested heavily in biofuels. What is the big fear? Those lucky oil rich regions will play fuel war putting majority into social chaos. To be more clear, those lucky rich will have the upper hand to dictate our economics, politics and our development. Is that far-fetched or for real?
The powerless ICCC of PNG,is good at reporting fuel price from time to time in the daily papers, besides they can do nothing. The reality is as worse can one see from outside PNG. Fuel price constant warning is pushing goods and services prices higher each day coupled with government taxes, a certain good doubles in prices as it moves away from the town/cities. The manifestation in magnitude does not need a research scientist from National Research Institute (NRI) to reveal the trend, its already and and at its worse.
Petrol, diesel, kerosene, methane, propane and even aviation fuel prices has increased prices in the past six months. Public and private institutions have over these periods gone to tip-tuck trying to adjust and sustain operations and in many cases let loose this tsunamic economic stress to the masses causing huge economic struggles among PNG nationals at all levels. Many learning institutions, at least the secondary schools have been reported to be using firewood to fuel cooking three times a day. Kerosene and gas stoves are very expensive to utilize. Asaroka Lutheran Secondary in the Eastern Highlands province, I last attended in 1997 has been reported to resort to firewood according to Ezekiel Gene who is my brother who last attended in 2010. Unfortunately, school administration will pass increase tuition fee to parents to meet high energy price. Other learning institutions have no options, unless the government is smarter.
As a graduate Bioenergy, during my study years in China I have encountered Chinese biofuels energy self reliance, that is they have no foreign monopoly on their fuel supply. Most restaurants and household would use solid briquette or carbonized fuel and methane gas. These fuels are produced by local industries and supplied locally, kerosene, propane and fuel shortages have been drastically minimized to no market for them in most of China. What fuels do the 1.3 billion population cook for their feed? biofuels! These fuels are not new concept, researches revealed that in the past 60 years, more than 73% of the Chinese population have been using methane produced locally, and since then 80% or more are using methane in their homes. Home methane production is a norm and local government assist the populace to fully develop local energy concepts and that’s Biofuels.
The other is the solid fuel or the carbonized cellulosic fuel or pressed and glued called briquette. Most restaurants in China uses this fuel and is a huge industry, Kerosene, I have not encountered one and seems intelligent Chinese eradicated it or so I assume.
With hands-on, reality experience and encounters with chinese in China, the bioenergy processing and with studies and researches, I have no doubt that the solid energy industry would satisfy PNG. Papua New Guinea can drastically reduce kerosene and cooking gas dependency.
In this article, I would like to lower the veil to reveal what dynamic solid fuel opportunity is at our disposal, furthermore, will expound some brief processing details for potential developers in PNG.
Cellulose materials such as wood, leaves, barks, roots, shrubs, timber wastages such as from industries, agro wastes are the potential raw materials for solid fuel production. These cellulosic materials need to be converted to carbon. Just how can that be done? That is a good question for beginners, the carbonizations of these materials need burning, however, this burning is controlled to accommodate carbon formation. First you need a combustion chamber, this chamber is designed to permit limited oxygen , this limited oxygen burning will directly facilitate cellulosic materials to dark carbonous material formation. From this stage, the carbonized material or the solid fuel can be used directly or further processed to briquette.
Briquette processing is not a new technology; it has been developed and used, marketed worldwide and widely accepted as fuel equivalent to kerosene or gas. The carbonized material lacks gluing agent and is itself unable to give a compact solid feature for cooking. This material is first grounded so can be pressed and glued using specialized flammable glue. Briquette can be pressed into different sizes depending on the stove design, demand and operational ability/capacity.
The most important part to solid fuel development, marketing and utilization is its stove design and external hybrid system. The carbonized cellulose and briquette are compact energized solid fuel unlike liquid fuel. This means they need specialized design to easily burn off, the design and its burning system must make sure enough air is supplied. The stove can be designed to hold pots and pans either single or two with ranging sizes from 3 kg to 50kg cooking capacity, a metallic structure resembling a bowl so that the carbonized fuel or the briquette can be placed at the bottom. Further down the bottom of the bowl you have to accommodate the air ventilation. There are two mechanisms for air supply, first is the natural air current where as hot air moves out, cold air comes in blowing the furnace to facilitate burning. The most efficient would be the electrical-mechanical blowing by means of blower. The blower can vary depends on the size of the stove, use and kind of pan to facilitate cooking. The blower is placed at the bottom of the stocked solid fuels and motors the blowing into glowing flamed coal like matter. The heat content of the solid fuel is nearer than the methane and propane. The compacted solid fuel releases much heat per gram since being compacted, the gnawing oxygen rich air promotes efficient burning which furiously cooks food in less time.
My solid biofuels hybrid system is when the system is attached to a solar powered blower. The stove with solid fuel, solar powered blower is truly a design that is compactable to suit our current fuel need. Cities and towns need that system, a little power and a little solid fuel is just enough to serve three 3 or more pots of food.
My former high school, Asaroka Secondary, an institution vital for the development of this likewise other schools nationwide will go to firewood or other undeveloped alternative fuel source or simply pass higher tuition fees directly putting load on many poor parents. Unfortunately, PNG will have to put up with high fuel cost because government is not thinking. However, I am open to provide technical support and advice to any potential developers and investors for the good of the people and the nation as a whole.
The author was a freelance consultancies in solid, liquid and gas bioenergies for clients in Yemen, India and the USA. He specializes also in algae biofuels (biodiesel, ethanol, and methane), syn gas, methanol, and starch conversions, waste to energy, solid fuel development, digester designs, and stove and biofuels instrumentations.
Gene Drekeke Iyovo , Msc, Bsc
Occupation: Engineer, Bioenergy.