Rice straw to biogas (R2B) project

Lead Research Organisation: Aston University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Applied Science

Abstract

Unlike rice husks (that cover the grain), rice straw (stems and leaves) is left in the field after harvest and few major uses have been identified, so more than 300 million tonnes of it are simply burned each year as waste. To date, attempts to profitably collect and use this vast resource for clean energy have almost all failed. In this concept note, a consortium of leading experts outline their bold plan to be leaders in this emerging field and provide a route to clean, affordable, reliable energy for the world's 200 million small-scale rice farmers.
Innovation: The novel approaches outlined here are designed systematically to overcome the four key barriers identified in the 3 year, UK-funded 'Rice Straw Energy project', which is now ending (September 2016). The barriers are: logistics of straw collection; rice straw fuel characteristics; lack of proven business models and policy support. The respective innovations to overcome them are: a simplified, village-scale supply chain that minimises collection costs and storage; a low-cost 'dry' anaerobic digestion technology appropriate for developing countries; packaged in an innovative business model with support from public funding to reduce the risks.

Planned Impact

This proposal seeks to address the energy trilemma by developing a route to making affordable, clean fuel from rice straw in developing countries. The technology to be used is anaerobic digestion, which is an established technology but using rice straw as the main feedstock is still an underdeveloped application for it. The focus is on industrial research to develop and test innovative new systems, sub-systems and components for producing biogas from rice straw in a more cost-effective way. This proposal for "Renewable Energy - biomass and energy from waste" seeks to addresses the energy trilemma as follows:
ENERGY ACCESS / SECURITY OF SUPPLY. Rice straw is one of the most abundant biomass resources in developing countries and small-scale rice farmers are among the poorest of the poor. Hence, being able to turn rice straw into clean fuel would significantly increase their access to clean energy. Rice is the world's number one food crop, and for every kilo of grain eaten, a kilo or more of straw is produced, so there is secure of supply of potential fuel, most of which is currently being burned as waste. As a storable fuel, biogas can provide reliable backup power for other renewables, including on calm days without wind power or at night when there is no sunshine for solar PV. However, the main target use in this proposal is as cooking fuel, because almost 50% of the population of SE Asia still relies on solid fuel for cooking, often involving collection risks for women.
AFFORDABILITY. This proposed work aims to greatly reduce the cost of rice straw biogas production through:
a) A streamlined, one-step collection and transport supply chain; b) Localised 'village-scale' production to minimise transport costs but still allow economies and specialisation; c) A novel, low-cost 'dry' anaerobic digestion technology; and c) 'Cascading' use of biomass to maximise value from the straw and the digestate as fertiliser. It will also trial a business model that could benefit small-scale rice farmers in remote areas where fuel costs are especially high but rice straw is abundant.
CLEAN. As a cooking fuel, biogas offers attractive GHG emissions savings compared to LPG, and local emissions savings compared to wood or charcoal. Indeed, cooking with solid fuels is one of the five biggest killers in developing countries, causing 4.3 million premature deaths per year. In addition, producing biogas from rice straw can help reduce pollution from inefficiently burning straw as waste, giving a double saving in environmental emissions and health benefits.
Key members of the IRRI-SUPERGEN 'Rice Straw Energy Project' team have created this commercial proposal to immediately combine that knowledge with leading innovations to help unlock the potential of this vast resource.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/P030874/1 31/03/2017 30/08/2018 £180,806
EP/P030874/2 Transfer EP/P030874/1 31/08/2018 30/03/2020 £109,732
 
Description It has been demonstrated that rice straw mixed with small amounts of cow manure can be successfully digested, resulting in clean biogas that can be compressed for off-site use or used to power a CHP engine.
Exploitation Route It is being taken forward with further work on business models and implementation in a mid stage energy catalyst award.
Sectors Energy,Environment

 
Description A pilot plant has been constructed. Local communiteis have been engaged. School children have been exposed to energy/environmental issues. Farmers have engaged with the material produced. Implementation is proceeding to enhance energy access for productive uses.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic

 
Description Asia and renewable energy - the only viable option for a sustainable future 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Article in Bioenergy Insight highlighting the relevance of the project activities adn leading to further discussion with commercial sector on bioenergy development opportunities in the global south
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Biogas from rice straw 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact workshop with academics, NGOs and third sector organisations discussing bioenergy production in the Philippines adn S.E. Asia leading to new resaerch collaborations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Exhibition stand EUBCE (European Biomass Conference and Exhibition) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Exhibition stand EUBCE (European Biomass Conference and Exhibition)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description GBEP webinar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk at GEBP webinar on bioenergy deployment and community engagement in Asia
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Launch R2B biogas facility 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Publich launch of biogas pilot in Philippines with 250 guest and participants including local and national government, funders, general public, local schools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Launch of biogas pilot plant, Philippines 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Launch event at biogas pilot facility in Philippines was attended by the general public, policy makers, goverment officials, farmers, local industry, schools adn national media increasing the interest in rice straw utilisation for biogas production and renewable energy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Manchester breakthrough web and social media campaign 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Online media campaign on impact of Manchester energy research focusing on this project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.manchester.ac.uk/research/beacons/breakthroughs/renewable-biomass/
 
Description Presentation EUBCE, 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact presentation on biomass from contaminated land
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation at European Biomass Conference & Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact oral presentation " Feasibility of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) under the UK's net-zero emission target" at the European Biomass Conference & Exhibition 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation at European Biomass Conference and Exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact presentation on Bioenergy in international development and global south
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Rice growing produces tonnes of excess straw - can we turn it into 'bioenergy'? - The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact blog post at the converation leading to discussion with industry as well as resulting in additional media activities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://theconversation.com/rice-growing-produces-tonnes-of-excess-straw-can-we-turn-it-into-bioener...
 
Description Rushlight Summer Showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact presenting R2B project at Rushlight Summer Showcase
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Stakeholder meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Stakeholder meetings with local and national policy makers, authorities and agricultural practitioners in the Philippines to discuss and inform about R2B project, project activities and opportunities for the local rice grower communities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Supergen Bioenergy Hub presentations at EUBCE 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact EUBCE (the European Biomass Conference and Exhibition) 2020 'Bioeconomy's role in the post-pandemic economic recovery' took place virtually between 6-9 July 2020, and several of our researchers presented progress on our work.

Mirjam Röder will be presenting 'Environmental Performance and Trade-Offs of Biogas Production from Rice Straw' as part of the Environmental Assessments of Biomass Systems session on 8 July at 2-3pm CET. In addition to this, Mirjam will also be chairing sessions on Environmental and Climate Impacts of Biomass Systems and Strategy Guidance for Local and Regional Bioenergy Projects, on 6 July & 7 July respectively.

Andrew Welfle will be presenting 'The Role of Bioenergy Modelling in Renewable Energy Research & Policy Development' as part of the Integrating Bioenergy in the Energy System session on 7 July 9-10am CET.

Samira Garcia Freites will be presenting 'Feasibility of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) Under the UK's Net-Zero Emission Target' as part of the GHG Performance of Bioenergy Including Carbon Capture session on 9 July at 9-10am CET.

Patricia Thornley will be presenting at side-event 'Getting published, perspectives of Editors' on 7 July at 5:20-6:30pm CET.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Sustainable Bioenergy Systems in a Net-Zero Emission Framework 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Scottish Government Towards a Bioenergy Action Plan
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Sustainable bioenergy within a net-zero emission target: Synergies between environment, economy and society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Nordic Conference Building a sustainable European biofuel industry Gothenburg
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description UK researchers test 'first-of-its-kind' biodigester on rice straw 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Article published in Approriate Technology magazin Vol 46, No.4
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020