Feasibility study in using rice straw for power generation

State-run Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has signed an agreement with French firm Enertime to assess the feasibility in using rice straw for power generation.

Eufemio Rasco Jr., PhilRice executive director, said that the use of rice straw in power generation could help farmers reduce production cost amid rising petroleum prices.

“It’s important to develop a new energy system that will serve as an alternative to the non-renewable, highly centralized, and not diversified system. The exact opposite of that is what we’d like to do, which means utilizing local sources of energy,” Rasco said.

In the Philippines, an average of 15.2 million metric tons of rice were harvested, leaving behind some 11.3 million tons of rice straw a year.

After harvest, farmers usually burn rice straw in the open field, causing air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide.

To minimize the postharvest waste, the two-year collaboration will explore the possibility of collecting, transporting, and conditioning rice straw to be used as feedstock or raw material in generating electricity.

The initiative, a part of the project Use of Rice Straw as Fuel to Generate Electricity Using Organic Rankine Cycle Technology in the Philippines, will cover Nueva Ecija and Laguna.

About 10,000 MT of rice straw per year is targeted to be acquired from these major rice-producing provinces.

Under the agreement, Enertime, a specialist on energy production using renewable resources, will finance the feasibility study once funds are granted by the French Economic Ministry’s Fund for Studies and Private Sector Support Program.

The company will also assess the biomass supply, estimate power plant cost, and help find project investors.

PhilRice will provide rice production data and technical support in collecting and transporting rice straw, contracting rice straw supply organizing site visits, and validating sites feasible for biomass energy production.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) are also part of this project. IRRI will lead the study on biomass supply organization and greenhouse gas mitigation analysis while UPLB will collect power plant site data and layout for the project.

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