Long considered an agricultural waste product, rice husks are now a valuable fuel source for thermoelectric power plants.
More than 250 tons of rice husks will be consumed each day as fuel in a thermal power plant being built in the Mekong Delta’s Hau Giang province. This is the first time a power plant will run on rice husks, under a cooperative arrangement between the Hau Giang Power Plant JSC and Malaysia’s C.H.E Group, with total capital of $31 million. The plant will supply the national power grid and also create jobs for many local people while contributing to protecting the environment. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2015 and the plant will have a capacity of 10MW.
Sometimes something that appears to be worthless can surprisingly become precious. Rice husks are a form of agricultural waste, but modern science has now turned it into a source of fuel for thermoelectric power plants. “Each kilogram of rice husk contains 3,300 kilocalories of gas, producing a profuse source of heat for the power plant,” said Mr Nguyen Duc Cuong, Director of the Energy Institute’s Centre for Renewable Energy and Clean Development Mechanism.
According to Mr Pham Trong Thuc, Head of the Renewable Energy Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Hau Giang thermal power plant is the first of 20 of its kind to be built throughout Vietnam. Total investment is estimated at $600 million and total capacity at 200MW. A representative from the Hau Giang Power Plant JSC said that within a year of the plant going into operation there will be at least six more plants built in Mekong Delta provinces with plentiful supplies of rice husk, including An Giang, Kien Giang, Dong Thap, and Can Tho, to supply the national power grid.
Using the rice husks to fuel the power plants will have a positive effect on the environment. The Mekong Delta creates more than 5 million tons of rice husks each year but only 10 per cent have been used in the past. The remainder were simply burned or thrown into the nearest river, with serious repercussions for the local environment. When the thermoelectric plant begins to use rice husks it will consume around 40 per cent, and the ash from burning can be also used in the production of cement and electrical insulators.
Mr Nguyen Thanh Nhon, Deputy Chairman of the Hau Giang Provincial People’s Committee, said that when the project is up and running it will not only provide a clean energy source but also generate more income for many local farmers, with one ton fetching around VND320,000 ($15). The husks can also used to produce charcoal. Mr Nguyen Huu Dung, Director of the Hung Gia Nguyen Co., said that every day his company produces about ten tons of charcoal. “Rice husk charcoal has become more and more popular because its price is 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than other types,” he said.
The use of rice husks has a lot going for it. “What the Hau Giang power plant is doing should be replicated elsewhere,” said Mr Cuong. “The main issue is establishing reliable sources of rick husks, so that demand is always met.”
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