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NED University Karachi

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NED University Karachi
« on: September 05, 2008, 12:50:01 PM »
NED University Karachi

NED experts argue green slime will cut import bill


Karachi: NED University Department of Environmental Engineering Engineer Mehmood Ali and Dr Mohammed Harun have argued that Pakistan's import bill can be reduced by Rs 69.5 billion (US $1.037 billion) if only bio diesel produced from non-edible raw materials is used in the transportation sector.

The engineers said that Pakistan has enough natural energy sources and willing scientists and experts to overcome the fuel and power crises but it is a lack of government interest and support that is a major obstacle. Pakistan consumes around 10 million tons of diesel per year, with a monthly consumption coming to around 667,000 tons.

"Bio diesel is a pollution-free energy source that can be produced from vegetable oils," said Ali. Programs to harness alternative renewable energy sources are the need of the hour and the government of Pakistan has announced one such program will start from 2015.

The price of mineral diesel in Pakistan is US$ 0.89 per liter (Rs 64.73 per liter) and the price of bio diesel in the US is around US$ 1.44 per liter. "Therefore, bio diesel production can also have major economic benefits for us," he argued, "especially given the fact that it can be obtained from non-edible crops that can grow on marginal land, in saline water or in wastewater ponds."

Pakistan State Oil (PSO) has already planted Jatropha plants near Karachi for bio diesel production. Ali informed that the high prices of bio diesel in the US are due to the fact that they use edible crops, such as corn, for bio diesel production. "Algae is perfect for bio diesel production, as its land requirement is minimal compared to other oil-yielding crops. Plus, algae can produce up to 30 times more oil than ordinary oil seeds and there are a number of algae species which are suitable to our climatic conditions," said Dr Harun.

Algae production would not put an additional strain on freshwater reserves needed for domestic, industrial and agricultural uses. Moreover, that algae cultivation would have multiple benefits, as apart from boosting bio diesel production, algae also reduces pollution from the atmosphere. In addition, glycerin, which has a market price of Rs 170 per liter, is a by-product of bio diesel production.

Ali added that the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial research (PCSIR) was undertaking a research project to determine the feasibility of growing algae in saline water and wastewater ponds. "By using wastewater as a nutrient source, these farms would essentially provide a means of recycling nutrients from fertilizer to food to waste and back to fertilizer. The castor oil yield is 1,413 liters per hectare, while the oil yield from algae is 10,000 liters per hectare," Harun added.

The advantages of algal growth include higher oil yield, cultivation in saline and wastewater ponds, a ready source of biomass for the production of heat energy, transformation of methane through alga culture grown material and the production of biological hydrogen for use in fuel cells. "The direct advantages to Pakistan include a pollution-free and greener Pakistan, employment for farmers and labourers and a reduction in fossil fuel import. Plus, foreign exchange savings will be increased and local petroleum companies will also receive a welcome boost," said Harun.

Recent studies suggest that algae are capable of yielding 30 times more oil per acre than the crops currently used in bio diesel production. "Algae can produce 5,000 to 20,000 gallons of oil per acre per year, which is far more than palm oil, which yields a paltry 635 gallons despite being one of the best crops for bio diesel production," said Ali, adding that since it is edible, palm oil cannot be used as a raw material for bio diesel.

The experts added that algae could also be economically converted into solid fuels, methane gas or bio-ethanol. It can also be used to generate electricity and can also be grown on liquid human sewage and on streams polluted by fertilizer run off, greatly reducing pollution. Daily Times