Waste to Resource: Energy or Materials

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Regional haze episodes have now evolved into an unmissable annual affair, with the only uncertainty being its severity in any particular year. While the direct cause is crystal clear, its remedy is much less simpler. Finding long term solutions to alleviate the problem has turn out to be rather complex with multi prong strategies ranging from a direct approach of causal elimination through the banning of open burning through legislation and enforcement to a more indirect socio-political approach of dealing with the root cause which many believe to be associated to land grabbing. Other initiatives such as plans to build drainage/canal systems in peat land as a means of underground soil wetting have also been considered.
One possible solution which shall be discussed in this report is the utilisation of the biomass for higher value bioproduct. The rationale is that the creation of value for the hitherto burnt biomass shall provide the impetus to consider the biomass as a source of wealth to be translated into a sustainable practice of economic harvesting. Various technologies exist to convert biomass resources into heat and power such as gasification and direct firing combustion. On the other hand, technologies for converting bioenergy is still new and only several are commercial today while others are being piloted or in R&D stage. This report discusses the technologies of converting biomass into heat and power as well as bioethanol as one of the promising strategies to mitigate the transboundary haze pollution encountered by the ASEAN countries in recent years. Case studies are also presented for possible extension into detailed studies later.