The Jakarta Post
Palm oil heavyweight PT Asian Agri plans to develop 20 biogas-fired power plants (PLTB) within the next five years to produce electricity for its own needs and for the people around the company's plantations.
Asian Agri general manager Freddy Widjaya said that the company has so far built five biogas power plants near the company's palm oil processing plants in North Sumatra, Riau and Jambi. 'The company has built two units each in Riau and North Sumatra and built one unit in Jambi,' he said.
'Next year we aim to build five more and hopefully we will be able to build a total of 20 power plants by 2020,' Freddy told The Jakarta Post on Thursday in Medan.
The power plants are fired by biogas produced from palm oil mill effluent (POME), the waste water discharged from the sterilization process, crude oil clarification process and cracked mixture separation process. POME produces huge amounts of methane gas from its anaerobic process.
Freddy said as the construction of a PLTB power plant, with a capacity of 2 megawatts (MW), would cost about US$4.5 million to build, the company would need to invest up to $90 million for the development of 20 power plants.
According to Asian Agri, by processing POME into biogas to generate electricity, it will cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and at the same time develop a new source of renewable energy that is suitable for rural electrification.
Furthermore, Freddy explained that the green electrical energy would be used for the company's operations and also for public use.
The PLTB project was in line with the Environment and Forestry Ministry's program that required palm oil liquid waste to be converted into electrical energy, he added.
'Previously, palm oil liquid wastes were only used as fertilizer for palm oil plantations,' Freddy said, adding that one unit of PLTB could generate 2 MW of electricity.
The company will use 30 percent of the 2 MW of generated electricity to support its plants' operations and the remaining will be distributed to meet public need.
If every household uses 900 watts of electricity, each 2-MW PLTB power plant could provide electricity for 2,000 households.
Meanwhile, Asian Agri mill optimization service head Sahat Sibuea said that the company would use Japanese technology that uses digester tanks to process the biogas for the PLTB power plants.
'The technology has been used by many palm oil producers,' Sahat said.
He added that the Japanese technology that would be used in building the biogas'fired power plants was more advanced than other technologies as it already used an aerobic membrane tank that could accelerate and maximize methane gas formation.
Sahat explains further that Asian Agri's PLTB will be a green energy producer, as methane gas produced by palm oil waste will be caught by the PLTB power generation system to be converted into electrical energy.
'If every household uses 900 watts of electricity, we predict that a 2-MW PLTB could distribute electricity to 2,000 households,' Sahat said.
Asian Agri, which is part of the Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) Group, currently manages a total of 160,000 hectares of oil palm plantations on Sumatra, of which 60,000 ha are run by plasma farmers. The company produces around 1 million metric tons of crude palm oil (CPO) per annum, including those produced by plasma and independent farmers. (ind)