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Biomass energy potential in Pakistan

Pakistan is experiencing a severe energy crisis these days which is resulting in adverse long-term economic and social problems. The electricity and gas shortages have directly impacted the common man, industry and commercial activities. The high cost of energy mix is the main underlying reason behind the power crisis. The main fuel for the local power industry is natural gas, however, due to the continued depletion of this source and demands elsewhere the power generation companies are now dependent on furnace oil which is relatively expensive.
The way out of this crisis is to look for fuel sources which are cheap and abundantly available within the country. This description and requirement is fulfilled by biomass resources which have been largely ignored in the past and are also available in sufficient quantities to tackle the energy crisis prevailing in the country.
The potential to produce power from biomass is very promising in Pakistan. Being an agrarian economy, more than 60 per cent of the population is involved in agricultural activities in the country. As per World Bank statistics, around 26,280,000 hectares of land is under cultivation in Pakistan. The major sources of biomass energy are crop residues, animal manure and municipal solid wastes.
Agricultural Residues
Wheat straw, rice husk, rice straw, cane trash, bagasse, cotton sticks are some of the major crop residues in Pakistan. Sugarcane is a major crop in the country and grown on a wide scale throughout Pakistan. During 2010-2011, the area under sugarcane cultivation was 1,029,000 hectares which is 4 per cent of the total cropped area. Cane trash which constitutes 10 per cent of the sugarcane is currently burned in the fields. During the year 2010-11, around 63,920,000 metric tons of sugarcane was grown in Pakistan which resulted in trash generation of around 5,752,800 metric tons. As per conservation estimates, the bioenergy potential of cane trash is around 9,475 GWh per year.
Cotton is another major cash crop in Pakistan and is the main source of raw material to the local textile industry. Cotton is grown on around 11 per cent of the total cropped area in the country. The major residue from cotton crop is cotton sticks which is the material left after cotton picking and constitutes as much as 3 times of the cotton produced. Majority of the cotton sticks are used as domestic fuel in rural areas so only one-fourth of the total may be considered as a biomass energy resource. The production of cotton sticks during 2010-2011 was approximately 1,474,693 metric tons which is equivalent to power generation potential of around 3,071 GWh.
Animal Manure
Pakistan is the world’s fourth largest producer of milk. The cattle and dairy population is around 67,294,000 while the animal manure generation is estimated at 368,434,650 metric tons. Biogas generation from animal manure is a very good proposition for Pakistan as the country has the potential to produce electrical energy equivalent to 23,654 GWh
Municipal Solid Waste
The generation or solid wastes in 9 major urban centers is around 7.12 million tons per annum which is increasing by 2.5 per cent per year due to rapid increase in population and high rate of industrialization. The average calorific value of MSW in Pakistan is 6.89 MJ/kg which implies power generation potential of around 13,900 GWh per annum.

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