Landhi bio-gas test plant to revolutionise energy production in Pakistan

By Saad Hasan
KARACHI: Deep inside a part of Landhi, where even a jeep struggles to cross, lies state-of-the-art technology which will use buffalo dung to change the economics and environment of the locality.

A bio gas test plant in Landhi Cattle Colony, which is one of the world’s biggest cattle farms with over 40,000 buffaloes, will start converting organic waste into fertiliser and natural gas within the next few days.

“Nobody has ever thought of such a big project,” said Robert D Orr, a director at Hirad, the English company which has set up the pilot project. “We are talking about collecting 8,000 tonnes of manure daily and using it to make something productive.”

After the project has been tested for a year, it is estimated it will produce 430,000 cubic metres of gas and 1,500 tonnes of fertiliser a day. Presently, the waste from nearly 2,000 farms scattered over the colony is channelled through open drains into the Arabian Sea, leading to massive environmental and heath-related hazards.

The project had remained on paper for the past 11 years, despite the estimated revenue from the sale of fertiliser and gas being enough for its feasibility. The idea of earning income from the sale of carbon credits attracted attention when Pakistan signed the Kyoto Protocol in 2005.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is a programme initiated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to explore cost-effective options to mitigate the impact of climate change. It is slowly helping industries here to improve their economies, and even pushing some to adopt unconventional ways to better their businesses.

At least one company, Pakarab Fertiliser Limited, has already started generating saleable carbon-offset credits by undertaking a multi-million dollar project to reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, a highly potent greenhouse gas. Eight more projects are awaiting the approval of the UNFCCC.

Saadullah Ayaz, Head of the CDM Cell in Pakistan, said that many industries in the country can benefit from trading in carbon emission reduction (CER) or carbon credits. “The CDM has potential wherever energy is being used. Textile units can use it to bring more efficient boilers and shift their power plants from CO2 intensive and expensive oil to gas.”

Under the protocol of the first CDM commitment period, developed countries are bound to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by five per cent from the 1990 levels by 2012. However, Ayaz said that since most of these countries have failed to meet their targets, it was inevitable that the programme would extend up to 2017 and beyond.

The cost of decreasing emissions is often unfeasible in industrialised countries, leading them to buy carbon credits from developing nations as part of their commitment to reduce emissions that cause climate change.

In some businesses, the CDM is being viewed as a way of being more efficient as well as fulfilling corporate responsibility towards the environment.

Almoiz Bagasse Cogeneration Project, which will use the residue of sugarcane juice to generate 27 megawatts of power, has also applied for carbon credits.

“The processes used in the sugar industry are inefficient,” said Salman Shehryar, a business analyst at Almoiz. “There were a lot of technological and financial barriers in projects. However, we have moved on and are in the middle of installing turbines for the internal supply and export of electricity.”

Trading in carbon credits is also a way of stopping environmental damage in a developing country like Pakistan, which is suffering heavy financial losses arising from excessive pollution, said Naeem Qureshi, President National Forum for Environment and Health.

“Every year, around 30,000 people die in Pakistan due to pollution. More than half a million fall victim to severe dieses,” he said, adding that “in terms of money, the country incurs a loss of Rs80 billion annually as exports are barred, seafood production declines, and worker productivity suffers.”

There is a simple reason why Pakistan has not been able to capture a sizable part of the carbon credit market dominated by South Asian nations. “Our industrialists are not proactive in improving their factories,” said Omar Malik, a director at Carbon Services, a Lahore-based consultancy. “The only mentionable response has come from the cement industry.”

The News, 31/7/2008

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