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GE Engines to power Cambodian rice husk power project

By Anna Simet | July 17, 2012

GE Energy has signed a contract with Cambodian industrial conglomerate Soma Group to supply two of its engines to power a biomass gasification facility. 

Soma Group’s Hak Se mill biomass gasification project is located in Cambodia’s rural rice milling region Kamphong Cham, and reinforces a 2011 agreement between GE Energy and the Cambodian government to identify opportunities to use the company’s distributed power, smart grid and other solutions to meet the country’s energy challenges.

India-based Ankur Scientific Energy Technologies Pvt. Ltd is developing the facility for Soma, where rice husks will be converted into biogas to power two GE VHP 5904 Waukesha engines.  About 1.5 MW of electricity will be generated in total; part of the power will support the rice mill’s operations while surplus electricity will be sold to the local grid.

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 renewable energy, according to GE Energy.  Less than two kilograms of husk can produce 1 kilowatt hour of electricity.

“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 Soma Group CEO Sok Puthyvut.

By converting 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, according to a GE Energy media release.

The long-term supply of rice hull feedstock is expected to remain plentiful, as the Cambodian government has established an ambitious goal to export 1 million tons of rice in 2013, which will create about 400,000 tons of concentrated rice husks.

The project will become the first to benefit from a biomass tariff provided by the Cambodian government, and it’s expected to be complete in March 2013.