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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THERE is no assurance that the biomass plant being proposed by Applied Research Technologies Phils., Inc. (Artech) can supply cheap and stable electricity to the consumers of Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco) 3.

 

This is the assessment of Engr. Edgar Mana-ay, who has 30 years of experience in oil, power generation and mining industries, in an interview with The Daily Guardian on Air over Aksyon Radyo.

 

Citing previous media interviews of Artech president Reynaldo Uy, Mana-ay said the primary purpose of the power firm is to plant sweet sorghum which will be processed into alcohol and ethanol.

 

The Biofuels Law mandates that diesel and gasoline should be mixed with ethanol to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and help arrest climate change.

 

Mana-ay said the waste product from ethanol processing called silage, which is equivalent to the bagasse in sugar mills, will be used as feedstock for Artech’s 5-megawatt power plant.

 

“The biomass plant is actually a steam power plant. In the Artech system, sweet sorghum will be processed into ethanol. The silage from the sorghum will be burned to boil water in the caldera to produce steam. The steam will run the turbine which in turn produces electricity,” Mana-ay said.

 

But Mana-ay fears that Artech will use Ileco 3 as “guinea pig” because the sorghum-based biomass plant technology is not reliable and feasible.

 

“Nowhere in the world can we see of a plant similar to what Artech is proposing is used as baseload power plant. The technology of converting sorghum into alcohol and electricity is still in the research and pilot stage,” Mana-ay said.

 

Mana-ay said 1.5 kilograms of sorghum silage must be burned to produce one kilowatt of electricity.

 

“A 4MW power plant will need about 216 tons of silage everyday to operate. Considering that sorghum matures in 100 days, it is estimated that 5,000 hectares of land is required to support a 4MW power plant. Is that plantation achievable and possible and how sure are we that such an area can provide a year round steady supply of fuel to the power plant?” he added.

 

Mana-ay is also concerned with the environmental effects of the biomass plant because sorghum silages has 40 percent ash content.

 

“This means that 80 tons of ash from the plant must be disposed daily. Unlike in coal ash which is a very good material for hollow blocks, agricultural ash has no use expect to sour up the soil,” Mana-ay said.

 

Mana-ay said Artech should explain to the public the actual technology of its biomass plant so that Ileco 3 officials and consumers can study the advantages and disadvantages of the power supply agreement.

 

In an interview with Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta yesterday, Uy said the sorghum plantation is a livelihood component of Artech’s 25-year power supply agreement (PSA) with Ileco 3.

 

Uy said the Ileco 3 board headed by former judge Mateo Baldoza had no objections to the PSA when he presented his proposal starting February 2009.

 

The Ileco 3-Artech deal is tainted with bribery after Baldoza claimed in an interview with Joel Tormon of Aksyon Radyo that Governor Niel Tupas Sr. gave him an envelope containing P75,000 cash while saying “Buligan ta lang sila (Let’s help them).”

 

The money was given during a meeting between the board and Artech officials at Tupas’ house in Jaro, Iloilo City April 17. Baldoza said the money might have something to do with Artech’s proposal.

 

Another P75,000 cash was given to Baldoza April 21, the day the board approved and signed the PSA, by a lady believed to be working for Artech.

 

Baldoza later modified his first statement saying a woman from Artech gave the money to him at Tupas’ house, not the governor himself.

 

Uy denied that his company gave money to Baldoza and other Ileco 3 board officials. He said his company does not practice bribery to corner deals.

 

Uy also said that other companies might be behind the issue against Artech’s deal with Ileco 3.

 

“I feel bad because my company was dragged in the fray,” he added.

July 2020
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