Biomass Resources from Sugar Industry

Sugarcane is one of the most promising agricultural sources of biomass energy in the world. It is the most appropriate agricultural energy crop in most sugarcane producing countries due to its resistance to cyclonic winds, drought, pests and diseases, and its geographically widespread cultivation. Due to its high energy-to-volume ratio, it is considered one of nature’s most effective storage devices for solar energy and the most economically significant energy crop. The climatic and physiological factors that limit its cultivation to tropical and sub-tropical regions have resulted in its concentration in developing countries, and this, in turn, gives these countries a particular role in the world’s transition to sustainable use of natural resources.

According to the International Sugar Organization (ISO), Sugarcane is a highly efficient converter of solar energy, and has the highest energy-to-volume ratio among energy crops. Indeed, it gives the highest annual yield of biomass of all species. Roughly, 1 ton of Sugarcane biomass-based on Bagasse, foliage and ethanol output – has an energy content equivalent to one barrel of crude oil.   Sugarcane produces mainly two types of biomass, Cane Trash and Bagasse. Cane Trash is the field residue remaining after harvesting the Cane stalk and Bagasse is the milling by-product which remains after extracting sugar from the stalk. The potential energy value of these residues has traditionally been ignored by policy-makers and masses in developing countries. However, with rising fossil fuel prices and dwindling firewood supplies, this material is increasingly viewed as a valuable renewable energy resource.

Sugar mills have been using Bagasse to generate steam and electricity for internal plant requirements while Cane Trash remains underutilized to a great extent. Cane Trash and Bagasse are produced during the harvesting and milling process of Sugarcane which normally lasts 6 to 7 months.

Around the world, a portion of the Cane Trash is collected for sale to feed mills, while freshly cut green tops are sometimes collected for farm animals. In most cases, however, the residues are burned or left in the fields to decompose. Cane Trash, consisting of Sugarcane tops and leaves can potentially be converted into around 1kWh/kg, but is mostly burned in the field due to its bulkiness and its related high cost for collection/transportation.

On the other hand, Bagasse has been traditionally used as a fuel in the Sugar mill itself, to produce steam for the process and electricity for its own use. In general, for every ton of Sugarcane processed in the mill, around 190 kg Bagasse is produced. Low pressure boilers and low efficiency steam turbines are commonly used in developing countries. It would be a good business proposition to upgrade the present cogeneration systems to highly efficient, high pressure systems with higher capacities to ensure utilization of surplus Bagasse.

About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the CEO of BioEnergy Consult, and an international consultant, advisor and trainer with expertise in waste management, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection and resource conservation. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biogas technology, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. Salman has participated in numerous national and international conferences all over the world. He is a prolific environmental journalist, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. In addition, he is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability through his blogs and portals. Salman can be reached at salman@bioenergyconsult.com or salman@cleantechloops.com.
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9 Responses to Biomass Resources from Sugar Industry

  1. Ian Coates says:

    Mostly correct but a little simplistic:
    Sugar Cane when approaching maturity for harvest does NOT like wind. Wind lodges the cane making it extremely difficult to harvest economically. I should know; been there done that.

    Cane tops are rich in residual alkaline salts that were taken up by the cane, from the applied fertilisers in the soil, during growth. This high alkaline salt content becomes a problem when burning the material as a fuel in a steam raising boiler since the salts condense our and corrode the boiler tubes raising the frequency of the re-tubing maintenance considerably.

    Higher pressure steam raising boilers are ever more susceptible to this problem.

    Generally, limiting the percentage of cane tops mixed into bagasse as a fuel feed for the needed steam raising seems to be acceptable at a ratio of around 10%.

  2. Dear Salman,

    I’m Mohamed shedid, founder in RAW BRIGHT Int. agent for German manufacturer of feed pellet mill and i would like to introduce your great business for biomass in Egypt. i need your help and recommendation about the project requirements and scope of works.
    appreciated in advance your help or oriented me to whom may be help.

    shedid, Mohamed
    executive manger , RAWBRIGHT
    http://WWW.RAWBRIGHT.NET

  3. allen jaber says:

    ‘D
    Dear sirs,’
    Thankyou very much for this valuable information. Sugarcane, is grown in my country and the wastes are burn or left to rot. ‘
    I am highly intersted in partnering or working for a person or group that would like to develop this business in my country and the west africa

    subregion. Can you help me?

    Thanks
    Allen Jaber
    Monrovia, Liberia

  4. Gordon says:

    I am in the US . Do you have any processing facilities there ? I am available at e-mail , gordlo2@aol.com .Gordon.

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