The FINANCIAL -- GE announced the SOMA Group, a leading
Cambodian industrial conglomerate, has selected GE’s Waukesha gas engine
technology to power a new rural, rice husk biomass-energy project.
The project is Cambodia’s first integrated biomass gasification-gas engine solution designed to supply renewable electricity to the local grid in support of the country’s rural electrification goals.
GE and the Soma Group signed their gas engine supply contract during a U.S.-ASEAN Business Council and U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum in the city of Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia. Francisco J. Sánchez, U.S. undersecretary of commerce for international trade, Robert D. “Bob” Hormats, U.S. undersecretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs, and His Excellency Sat Samy, secretary of state of the Cambodian Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME), witnessed the contract signing ceremony.
Located in the country’s rural rice milling region of Kamphong Cham, the SOMA Group’s Hak Se mill biomass gasification project is also the first to be implemented after GE and the Cambodian government signed a 2011 alternative energy development agreement to identify opportunities to use GE’s distributed power, smart grid and other solutions to meet the country’s energy challenges.
The GE-Soma Group contract exemplifies how U.S.-based companies like GE are supporting alternative energy projects throughout Southeast Asia. The Soma Group project creates a model for similar agricultural biomass waste-to-energy development opportunities in the ASEAN region. ASEAN member countries represent a combined 1 gigawatt “biogas segment” due to their abundance of biomass resources and focus on rural electrification.
Ankur Scientific Energy Technologies Pvt. Ltd, a global technology leader in renewable energy technologies based in India, is developing the new Cambodia biomass gasification facility for project owner Soma Energy Ltd. The rice husk will be converted into biogas, which then will be used in two GE VHP 5904 Waukesha engines to generate a total of a 1.5 megawatt (MW) of renewable electricity. Part of the power will support the rice mill’s operations while surplus electricity will be sold to the local grid, providing an economical power supply and improving the living standards of people in the area.
The new power plant is expected to begin commercial service in March 2013.
“Our new facility is expected to serve as an important model for the region’s rice-milling industry and other agricultural sectors by showing how they can recycle more of their biomass, generate renewable electricity and make their mills more competitive by reducing their on-site energy and waste disposal expenses,” said Sok Puthyvut, SOMA Group CEO.
SOMA Group selected GE’s Waukesha gas engine technology after determining it would be more cost-effective than using a diesel-powered system to help exploit the country’s abundant supply of rice husk waste as a reliable source of biogas to produce renewable energy. Less than two kilograms of husk can produce 1 kilowatt hour of electricity.
By recycling rice mill waste into biogas to support the local grid, the SOMA Group project is supporting Cambodia‘s Rural Electrification Program that seeks to supply electricity to every village by 2020 and to connect 70 percent of the country’s households to the grid by 2030. Currently, only 50 percent of rural villages have access to electricity with demands for power growing at 25 percent a year.
Supplies of the biomass feedstock are expected to remain strong: the Cambodian government has established a goal to export 1 million tons of rice in 2013 that will create about 400,000 tons of concentrated rice husks.
The Soma Group project is a breakthrough in the high-potential ASEAN region for GE’s gas engine technology, which is ideally suited to support agricultural-waste-to-value applications in developing countries. We are pleased with this opportunity to work with the Soma Group and Ankur to deploy our Waukesha gas engine technology to launch this biomass energy program for Cambodia to meet its economic and environmental goals. It is very much in line with our focus of building and powering to help countries shape their future economic landscapes,” said Kenji Uenishi, president of GE Energy, Asia Pacific.
According to General Electric Company, the Soma Group project illustrates how GE and MIME are working with local companies to upgrade Cambodia’s generation and transmission infrastructure, expand the production of cleaner energy and promote industrial and residential energy efficiency. In particular, GE is supporting MIME’s efforts to optimize the country’s agricultural strengths by supporting various rural electrification projects.
The Soma Group project also represents the country’s first power purchase agreement to use a biomass tariff stemming from GE’s October 2011 agreement with Cambodia. As part of the agreement, GE identified the segment potential of using rice husk as a biogas feedstock while supporting the government’s establishment of a feed-in-tariff to help finance biomass projects. GE also helped educate the local rice milling industry as well as local banks and other potential investors. In addition, GE identified proven gasification technology and developed an integrated package solution that justified the project’s economics.
The SOMA Group’s biogas-energy initiative further demonstrates how GE’s comprehensive suite of distributed power solutions—ranging in size from 100 kW to 100 MW— offer industries and communities around the world the ability to generate reliable and efficient on-site power with a variety of fuels to promote greater local energy security and reduced emissions. GE’s distributed power portfolio includes aeroderivative gas turbines, Jenbacher and Waukesha gas engines and waste heat recovery solutions.
“ASEAN has strong growth prospects with the economies of its countries remaining resilient despite global uncertainties,” said Stuart Dean, CEO of GE ASEAN. “We have a solid footprint in ASEAN today as we work together with the public and private sectors to co-create and bring to market innovative solutions for world-class infrastructure and healthcare in a region with a population of about 600 million.”