Environment

SRC pushes development of biogas

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor — features
thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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THE Scientific Research Council (SRC) is taking steps to ramp up the usage of biogas as a fuel source across all sectors of society, with particular sights set on developing it as vehicular fuel and bottled gas.

To that end, the council is organising a workshop to train engineers, scientists, contractors, developers and others in the application of the technology.

According to manager of the process development division, Julia Brown, the workshop — which has been rescheduled for July 11-14 — will not only serve to create awareness of the technology and its products, but will also get contractors involved in implementing the technology from the point of view of revenue generation.

She told the Jamaica Observer that while biogas — a renewable energy source produced from the degradation or organic waste such as sewage and animal and food waste — is already used to some degree in cooking, heating, brooding, and electricity generation on the island, Jamaica has so far not been reaping the benefit of the technology on a broad scale.

Part of the reason, she readily admitted, is the negative associations of some of the sources of the gas, particularly sewage.

“It is highly utilised,” Brown said of biogas in Jamaica. “We've been using it to generate electricity, we've been using it for cooking and heating and brooding. At one time we had two farmers who were using biogas in their operations, which included the factory and the household. We have schools and other institutions that are using it for cooking.”

There is also “a major fast food facility that uses biogas, but the process development manager declined naming the facility for fear that it will attract negative attention.

“We have to be very careful how we promote and market it (biogas use) because there are people who say they think the sewage will get into their food,” Brown told the Observer.

But the SRC is not allowing negative public perception to halt its development of the resource.

Over the last few years it has been testing the production of the fuel at five health care facilities across the island and has reported that one of them is expected to go online “in the next two to three months”. The facilities are Percy Junor, Sav-la-Mar and Noel Holmes hospitals, as well as Ulster Spring and Fellowship health centres.

“The aim of the technology is to make waste a resource and in so doing, realise the benefits of our waste, not only as an individual but as a nation and the world at large, because biogas is a source of energy and can be a replacement for fossil fuel,” Brown argued.

Further, she said, capturing the methane naturally produced by the degradation of organic material will help slow the warming of global temperatures.

“If we wantonly dispose of our waste it is going to produce biogas. Biogas has methane and methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, which you know is a major greenhouse gas. If we do not harness and treat it as a fuel source, it is goign to be there causing ozone layer depletion and contributing to climate change,” she explained.

Biogas is primarily methane and carbon dioxide. It is considered to be a renewable resource because its production-and-use cycle is continuous and it generates no net carbon dioxide. In the UK, for example, it is estimated to have the potential to replace around 17 per cent of vehicle fuel.

“SRC, in our capacity as research and development institution, has been pushing biogas for a long time because of the role programme plays. We now want to take it to the next level but we need major investment,” Brown said.

To that end, she said Jamaica is in talks with partners from the region, some of whom have already been developing the resource in their own countries, for technical and financing support.

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