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• An Introduction to Biogas Renewable

Energy Power Projects

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Anaerobic Digestion & Biogas

• Scientific interest in the manufacturing of gas produced

by the natural decomposition of organic matter was first
reported in the 17th century by Robert Boyle and Stephen
Hale, who noted that flammable gas was released by
disturbing the sediment of streams and lakes.
• In 1808, Sir Humpry Davy determined that Methane was
present in the gases produced by Cattle Dung.
• The first anaerobic digester was built by at a leper colony
in Bombay India, in 1859, producing Methane for lighting
and cooking.
• In 1895, the technology was developed in Exeter England
where a septic tank was used to generate gas for the
sewer gas destructor lamp, a type of gas lighting used
during that time.

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The Anaerobic Digestion (AD) process
produces Biogas

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Benefits of the AD process

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Four stages in the AD process

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Decline in the interest in Biogas
• However due the requirement to handle
wastes such as dung or rubbish or
effluent, which were often bulky and
• And the considerable time required for the
production of biogas in the AD, biogas lost
out to coal, oil and natural gas as a main
energy resource in the decades that

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Renewed interest since the last decade due
to spiraling petroleum prices
• Chart showing comparison of energy prices with biomass fuels in
Indonesia since 2003 (source World Bank Tech paper 296)

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Feed stocks for the AD process

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Bio-Gas yields of different feed stocks
(Palm oil mill effluent is a fatty waste )

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Environmental Issues with POME

• Palm oil processing leads to the generation of

effluents that are major pollutants with a high
Biological & Chemical Oxygen Demand.
• However with technology it is possible to turn this
“problem into profit!”
• The treatment can generate Methane, an energy
source. Capture and utilization of this, as well as
with new technology now available, mills can
operate in an “ environmentally friendly” with
minimal or no harmful effects to the environment.
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Qualities of Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME)

Quantity 0.7 to /0.9 tonne/tonne ffb (in a day can

be about 1400 tonnes at an 80tph mill
pH 4.7 (acidic)
Oil & grease 400 all in ppm ( Parts per million)
Biochemical Oxygen Demand 25000
Chemical Oxygen Demand 50000
Total solid 40500
Suspended solid 18000
Total Volatile solid 34000
Ammoniacal Nitrogen 35
Total Nitrogen 750
Phosphorous 18
Potassium 2270
Magnesium 615
Calcium 439
Boron 7.6
Iron 46.5

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POME ( Sludge/effluent)

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Systems of effluent (POME) treatment
• Anaerobic Ponding system.
• Usual 2 small ones for de-oiling,
• 2 primary (acidification),
• 2 secondary methanization),
• 3 facultative. (Aeration / aerobic)
• Tanks and ponds (biogas generation and use)
(power generation new)
• Drying and Composting. (New system that also
uses the empty fruit

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Specific Issues with POME
• Sedimentation
– If not managed, will accumulate solids at base of digesters

• High COD
– Requires recycling and mixing
– often causes toxic acid formation and digester failure

• High Oil Content ( especially with problems in the mill)

– Toxic to bacteria in high concentration

• Scum Formation
– Accumulation, blockage of proper flow and thus digestion

• H2S in biogas normally high > 1500 ppm needs to be scrubbed

• Mill operation results in shock loading thus maintenance required on
digester systems

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Anaerobic/Aerobic ponds ( normal
treatment in palm oil mills)

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Biogas power plant options available

a) Digester tanks
b) Covered In ground Digester tanks and tank digesters
c) Floating roof tank digester

• Normally digester tanks have limited holding and thus treatment

capacity for a 60TPh mill the effluent in 5 days can be 6000 tonnes
• Biogas Gas output lower about 6000 N cu. m/day HRT 6 days
• In ground digesters sized for 30,000 to 60000 cu. m can thus
treatment capacity HRT 50days and BioGas output can be about
30,000 N cu. M /day.
• It normally takes about 20 days for about 80% of the COD in effluent
to be digested. This process is the main source of “Methane
• Theoretically 27 to 35 N cu.m bio-gas is produced/ tonne POME

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Benefits of and In- ground AD & Methane capture

• Captures Biogas and yield can be about 20,000 N cu.m /hr or used to
generate about 3 MW of power from a 60 tonnes/hr mill (FFB
production 280,000 tpy and the biogas scrubbed of H2S)
• Biogas quality is stable contains about 60% Methane.
• Digester operation reliable and is no “rocket science.” With a high
buffer less fluctuation of biogas yield, even with some variation in crop
levels with the seasons.
• No risks of sour ponds, No sludge accumulation
• Significant gas storage for peak demands or stop/start operation
• Low safety risk (compared with tanks)
• Low maintenance (includes upkeep of the ground and site)
• Attractive appearance (Can be landscaped as a Flower garden)
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A digester supplying gas to 3 MW electric power plant (fr. KPSR Constr.)
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Polishing Plant for final effluent
• If required a polishing plant can be
incorporated to obtain final BOD< 20ppm

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Schematic of a Methane Capture and Power

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Design Considerations for supplying power
to Grid (Normal )
 The distance from the RE power plant to the Utility interconnection
station shall not be more than 10km.
 The power will have to be stepped up to 11/22/33 kV so as to minimize
the losses in the transmission lines. (Higher voltage means lower current
in the transmission cables and thus lower power losses)
 Electricity unit price up to about US $ 0.1 to $0.12 /kWh (Feed in Tariff in
W. Malaysia and also by PLN in Indonesia)
 Carbon credits CERs possible, not available presently
 Tailor made design and state of the art technology available to ensure
the reliability of the power generated and transmitted.
 Utility will enter into a Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreement.
 In the event the Grid is far, alternative use can be made for the power
such as to displace diesel usage in Estate residential areas, if a local
power distribution network is constructed.
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Major Biogas RE Power Plant Equipment

 A biogas digester tanks or covered in ground digester system .

Inlet pipes, digested sludge off take pipe, gas collectors storage
facility. Waste disposal to meet Dept of Environment stds.
 Well designed biogas scrubber system.
 Gas conditioning skid, (moisture pressure control). metering
 Engine Generator, building, intake, cooling system, acoustic
enclosure, building services, (fire fighting system etc)
 Flare stack for excess gas,
 Plant control and instrumentation.
 Synchronizing with existing power system (e.g. palm oil mill).
 Power transmission and distribution system

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Digester technology option, tanks vs
In ground digester
• Tanks are more suitable in areas of peat soil or
earthquake zones etc. the tanks are expensive to
construct normally a 2500 tonne tank will cost about
US $ 250,000/- so 5 such tanks will cost about US $
1.25 million
• Earthworks to dig 50000 cu. m and compact to 95 %
dry density about US 0.7 million incl., HDPE Cover
and Distribution pipes required with Lagoon
• In the case of AEN tank digester is a
better option (main problem of land
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Digester tanks and biogas recovery. Sime Darby 1979 at
Tenamaram Mill Malaysia ( about 200 kW genset)

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Construction of tank & lagoon
based digester system

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Completed tank & lagoon digesters

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Bio gas Tank digester continuous stirred tank

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Biogas Output normally about 55 to 65
% methane
about 30 % CO2 , & H2S 2000ppm

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Bio-Gas tank digesters & collector

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Project 2 MW biogas palnt at Univanich Lanthrop 45 TPH mill
S. Thailand

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The Obstacles and cause for the slow
development in implementation thus far

• Only about 28 Mills have implemented a biogas capture and utilization scheme
in Malaysia out of 450 mills ( About 11 mills in Sabah out of about 150 mills
• The main cause was the Low electricity tariff / and expensive
interconnection requirements to the National Grid
Again Mills prefer to concentrate on operation and not very interested in other
businesses such as power generation.
Very often mills have no use for additional power if they are far from the GRID,
The CDM processes have been slow taking about 3 years to realize benefits.
There have also been Project Failures with certain biogas capture techniques
With the Feed In Tariff and higher Petroleum prices and removal of subsidies the
interest in the projects is expected to improve greatly.

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Biogas H2S Scrubbers, and power transmission lines

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Biogas collection metering

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Efficiency based on COD in (total) and COD out (settled) in January 2009

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% Methane after Digester


% Methane





1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Steady Methane level (note scrubber dilutes methane content) Fr. KPSR Const.
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Treated waste from digester outlet, after a centrifuge test,
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Gas engine generators 1 MW in the power house

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Gas metering & control

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500 kW biogas engine genset

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2 x 1 MW gensets Jenbacker units
operate on biogas >45% methane

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Power metering

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Gas can be co-fired in boiler if required
low efficiency!

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Flare stack for excess biogas

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Cost of plant in AEN’s case
• A plant with a maximum capacity of about 600kW is
possible in the case of AEN and the sludge that is
• The capital cost of the plant will be about 2.0million
dollars (US $ 2.0 million include water recycling)
• The main benefit will be sale of power to CEB.
• The next most important is better environmental
• If system is added in then the currently existing systems
performance will be enhanced and a BOD level of lower
than 50ppm is possible, also cleaner discharge,
cultivation of azolla? etc. possible?
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Biogas purification and compression skid

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Biogas purification

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Bottling and use of organic natural gas

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Construction Program

Each project site has a sequence of construction activities, typically the

• Site assessment and baseline test
• Establish agreed site-specific project configuration
• Obtain DOE and local approvals, DOSH, town councils, PWD etc if
• Site clearance or emptying existing ponds according to the desired
• Earthworks ,Placing HDPE pipes, filling lagoon
• Civil construction, Equipment placement, Wiring, Completion of pipe-
• Commissioning, Performance test, Reliability test
• The implementation time is about 10 months to One year.
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Proposed site next to mill

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Next Steps
• Discuss Equity on JV company.
• Investor (NR Ecosystems Sdn. Bhd.) willing to
take up about 85% equity, AEN 15 to 20 % max.
JV Agreement, land lease, site access,
responsibilties on O&M and profit sharing etc.
• To work out power purchase agreement with
CEB on rates etc. (about 2 months)
• If a purchase price of US $ 0.17/kWh is obtained
then a payback period of 3.5 years is expected.

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Project Stages

Feasibility, Plant Sizing site suitability

Land confirmation &Initiate regulatory approvals
Project scheduling & Plant Concepts & Design
Site topographical survey and soil study
Procurement all major components & follow up
Power plant Equipment, M&E Selection
Developer preferences & Detailed designs
Preparation of Detailed working drawings

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Thank You

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