Potential for biomass energy generation under study

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Conrad Prabhu –
MUSCAT –
Dec 5: The Research Council (TRC) is spearheading studies designed to evaluate the potential for power generation utilising waste biomass in the Sultanate.
According to a high-level official, biomass material, which is a source of biogas for fuel and power generation, is available in the northern and southern parts of the Sultanate primarily in the form of wastewater and agricultural waste. Animal waste is another commodity in the south that can help augment biomass resources.
“The biomass sector has the potential to expand without harmful effects on food supplies and the environment, if done in a sustainable manner,” said Dr Ahmed Said al Busaidi, Programme Manager — Renewable Energy Research, TRC. “Greater recovery of wood from unmanaged and managed (foliage) can make a significant contribution to Oman’s energy targets,” he added in a presentation on renewable energy prospects in the Sultanate. Addressing delegates on the first day of the INTEX Oman Forum, which began at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC) yesterday, Dr Al Busaidi also underlined the potential for the capture of methane gas — a promising fuel resource — from the large number of landfills dotting the Sultanate’s landscape.
But he noted however that present levels of biomass resources are not substantial enough to support commercial-scale power generation in itself. At best, available biomass resources can be suitably harnessed to sustain pilots or small-scale plants, he said.
However, “there is good potential for Oman to expand its production of sustainable biofuel production in the future if the infrastructure and right industry are available,” the researcher stressed.
For the present, renewable energy development in the Sultanate is primarily focused on solar and wind resources, said Dr Al Busaidi. The most promising is solar based electricity generation, with studies pointing to a world-beating solar insolation range of 4.5-6.1 kilowatt-hours/ m2. This corresponds to a power output ranging from 1,640 to 2,200 kwh/m2 per year, he said, noting that around 280 sq km of land is available for solar-based power generation in the Sultanate.
Strong winds that blow all along the coast from Masirah to Salalah also represent a promising resource that can be tapped.
So is the potential in the Dhofar mountains, where high winds are a feature during the summer season. Options for offshore wind exploitation can be explored as well.
TRC is currently supporting a string of research initiatives that seek the harness indigenous renewable energy resources to support the nation’s burgeoning energy needs, as well as to offset Oman’s present dependence on fossil fuels. In particular, the application of renewables in air-conditioning and water desalination is being assessed.
Significantly, the Public Authority for Electricity and Water (PAEW) is also exploring the potential for hydro power generation at the Wadi Dayqah dam. If successful, it would mark the first ever exploitation of hydro power for electricity generation in the Sultanate.
However, any commercial scale hydro power generation linked to the Wadi Dayqah reservoir is ruled out because overflows — necessary to drive electricity-generating turbines — are typically brief and limited to the aftermath of a heavy bout of rain upstream of the reservoir.