Renewable Cogen Asia has significant experience in the development of palm waste cogeneration plant projects in Asia and Africa with a cumulative capacity of over 22 MWe. In general, the size of palm waste cogeneration plants is smaller when compared with sugar cogeneration plants.
In palm waste power generation industry, there was a major shift in the technology during the last fifteen years. Previously, boiler ash removal was manual with formation of clinkers along with ash. But now, ash removal is automatic, resulting in increased efficiency. In addition, these days, empty fruit bunch (EFB) is also used as a boiler fuel along with fibre and shell. Some equipment suppliers are even trying to use 100% EFB for their boilers. We got involved in the implementation and studied the performance of a 14 MW palm oil waste cogeneration plant, which used EFB as fuel and the results were good.
Twenty years back, throughout Malaysia and other SEA countries, we saw palm shells being used as road material. But now (in 2014), the price of palm shell has gone as high as 50 USD/ton and this is mainly because several cement industries use palm shell as an alternative to coal.
From the commercial point of view, there is an increased competition among equipment suppliers and hence the investment costs have become reasonable. Recent developments in the industries have created a demand for EFB, which was previously dumped or openly burnt. Even now, a small quantity is in use at the plantation sites as a fertilizer.
Due to high potassium content in the ash, formation of clinker, which was a major issue in the past, is being sorted out. Currently, several modern cogeneration plants are under installation which use EFB as fuel. Nowadays, ultra-modern power plants are being installed in Southeast Asia with a lot of environmental protection measures, which are on par with power plants in developed countries.
We have worked with several palm waste projects around the globe with sizes ranging from 2 MW to 14 MW. Refer our recent publication section for additional information on palm waste cogeneration.
If careful and innovative project development, implementation and operation approaches are followed from the beginning stage itself, then, it is possible to reduce the overall project cost to around 20 to 30% thereby leading to considerable increase in IRR.
Palm oil milling industries traditionally used palm fibre and shell as fuel. It was a normal practice to dispose the empty fruit bunches (EFB) without any use for energy purpose. In the past 15 years, equipment suppliers started R&D efforts and began implementing projects to burn EFB, which is a difficult fuel. Though several equipment suppliers have implemented such projects in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, no one has succeeded completely in this aspect.
Equipment suppliers who can bring in reliable and proven combustion system can capture the potential markets in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Palm oil mill owners are carefully watching the technological development in this area and when the technology is 100% proven, most of them will go for new power plants which use EFBs. Fuel preparation system for the use of EFB is another area where there are good opportunities for proven suppliers.
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