The central objective of the project is to develop a sustainable alternative to meet the growing demand for electrical energy in the isolated communities of the Northern Region of Brazil. The project develops the biomass gasification technology for electricity generation using internal combustion engine and an electrical generator. At the end of its 3 phases, the project will evaluate and recommend on viability of the technology in Brazil.
The project also aims at building capacity in operation and maintenance of the gasifier plant, transferring the acquired knowledge from performance test results on 2 gasification plants imported from India. The project utilizes the experience developed in India, where such a technology is being used for more than 10 years. India’s rural isolated villages resemble to a large extent to the Brazilian rural communities in terms of degree of access to electricity and energy demand characteristics.
The project is being executed by CENBIO (National Reference Center in Biomass) and gets financial support from International Energy Initiatives – Latin American Office, Biomass Users Network of Brazil (BUN) and Fund for Studies and Projects on Energy Sector (FINEP-CTENERG) of the Ministry of Science and Technology of Brazil.
The project activities
Technical Mission and Training in India:
Four members of the project team visited India and attended a training course on “Modern Biomass Utilization Technologies” at the Indian Institute of Science. The training took place in October 2002 as a part of human capacity building for the project partners from CENBIO, Institute of Technological Researches (IPT) of the Federal University of São Paulo and Federal University of Pará (UFPA). Apart from attending classes, the participants had an opportunity to visit some working gasification plants in field and participate in conducting performance testes.
Two training courses have been conducted in Manaus in the Amazônia Region, at the Federal University of Amazonas (UFAM) on “Opportunities of Electricity Generation from Biomass, Power Generation Systems through Gasification of Biomass”. The first training was conducted in April 2002 and 9 participants attended. The course covered theoretical, technical, economical and agronomical aspects related to the gasification technology.
The most recent training seminar was conducted in July 2003 in Manaus and 30 participants from local organizations involved in energy sector attended.
One research study has been conducted on “The State of Art of the Gasification” which studied principal experiences on the technology in Brazil and the world, socioeconomic aspects and the environmental consequences resulting from biomass gasification.
Registration of GASEIFAMAZ
The project obtained a registration for the “Central Termoelêtrica Gaseifamaz 1” from ANEEL as an independent power producer. By the registration, the project got exemption of the tax on industrialized products (IPI) in the importation of the above mentioned 20kW gasification plant.
House Tests and Evaluation
One of the two 20kW gasification plants, which were purchased and imported to Brazil from the Indian Institute of Science of India, is currently under tests at the IPT. The tests include the system efficiency, feed materials characteristics, fuel gas cleaning and residual cooling water treatment. The tests goes along with the preparation of the users operation manuals and seek to establish a simple plant design with as much low costs of operations as possible. There are also efforts to study possibilities of using locally manufactured engines instead of the imported ones in order to lower the system’s initial and maintenance costs. Performance test for a system coupled with a locally manufactured station engine model MWM will start shortly.
The plant is composed of a 20kW gasifier, ash extractor, water cooling and treatment system, an internal combustion engine, electrical generator (directly coupled to the engine), biomass dryer, and a control panel.
Opportunities of the Biomass Gasification Technology in Brazil
Main Challenges facing the GASEIFAMAZ
The main challenges of the gasification technology has been identified in the following areas:
Lowering the costs of operation and maintenance
Improving the quality of the fuel gas produced from the gasifier by cleaning it before feeding into the engine.
Developing a mechanism for treatment of the discharged cooling water from the plant. Generally, laws prohibit the discharge of contaminated water to the surroundings.
Building human capacity of the local communities to operate and maintain the gasification plant
Comparative Advantages of the Gasification Technology
Existence of abundant availability of biomass in the Amazônia Region.
Already existing significant experience in the operation and maintenance of the station engines for the electricity generations and irrigation in the region. The adaptation to the use of a gasification plant will not face many difficulties as far as operations and maintenance of engines and generators are concerned.
Relatively clean technology with less pollution to the environment
Competitiveness of the Gasification Technology
Economical competitiveness of the gasification plant depends on the presence of other energy supply options and the distance from the nearest supply of the diesel and spare parts. Generally as the distance increases costs of diesel and spare parts increases as well, leading to high cost of energy production from diesel generators. With an ability to replace diesel consumption up to 80%, the gasification system becomes more economical in such cases in terms of low cost energy production.
Need for Frequent Maintenance
From the field experience in India, the need for frequent maintenance to a system supported by a well-trained technician was observed. This could mean higher maintenance cost and could be reduced by developing a system with simple operations and less maintenance requirement. Also chopping the feedstock biomass material to the required size, drying and feeding into the gasifier is done manually, implying a constant labor force during the whole period of operation of the plant.
Preliminary results of the performance tests indicate a possibility of diesel saving of up to 80%. However from the field experience in India an optimum fuel mixture was observed to be the one with 50% diesel. The fuel mixture with less than 50% diesel burns irregularly causing high vibrations and spontaneous combustion at the exhaust pipe. High vibrations may lead to low useful life of a system. A suitable mixing ratio should be specified taking into considerations the actual working conditions in field and economical operations of the plant. High ratios of the fuel gas into the fuel mixture can only be achieved with an efficient system of ‘air cleaning’ to produce a fuel gas of a relatively high combustibility properties.
The costs of importing one gasification plant from India is in turn of R$ 50,000. This is a relatively high investment when compared to other low cost alternatives such as a diesel generator. Together with the operations and maintenance costs, the final price per unit energy produced is considerably high. This suggests that in order for the community to be able to afford purchasing energy from such a system, it should have a sufficient income. There should be some productive activities in a community which will use the energy produced to generate more income and be able to pay the energy bills.
For poor communities energy costs from the system will be an extra bill difficulty for them to pay. The plant could also be useful to rural industries which uses considerable amount of energy, have good revenues and well organized. With successful adoption of the technology and developments in local production, the system costs can drop considerably.
Alternative Use of the Fuel Gas
Through the gasification technology it is possible to develop a system of burning the fuel gas and produce high quality heat energy in a boiler or similar equipment. According to the project team, the gas could even substitute the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in some cases as was observed in during a study visit in India. Note that a gas for direct burning from the gasifier need not to be as clean as the one needed for burning in an internal combustion engine, eliminating the need of using a gas cleaner
Future Plan of Activities
After completion of the performance tests, the gasification plant will be transported to Manaus and be installed in one of the local isolated communities for further testing on the field and use. The performance tests at the IPT are expected to be through by October 2003 and system will have been installed in one of the Amazonians communities by December 2003. The presence of sound productive activities in a community that can present a considerable energy demand is a key criterion to this project. Initial criteria were mentioned to be willingness of a community to participate in an electrification project, existence of a diesel generator system in a locality and location near to the University of Amazônia, which will be taking care of the system. In the same period, another training on field will be conducted on operation and maintenance of at the local level.
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