First of its kind to scud over all the bioenergy streams possible in the country
By: Hassan Harajli

Each nation must know itself like each person must know him or herself. A nation must know the socio-economic conditions of its people, such as their income levels, education attainment, the equality between the sexes and various groups, and so forth in order to best put forth policies and programs that will ensure progress and development. The same thing applies to energy. A nation must know its energy habits, the demand for energy from various sectors of the economy, as well as the supply of energy, from which source, at which cost, and so forth?

Often you find top-down decisions made concerning targets or objectives. Such a top-down decision was made in Lebanon in the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, where the Lebanese pledged 12% of its energy to come from renewable energy sources by 2020, a pledge that was reconfirmed in the Council of Ministers in that year.

Yet the target did not specify what kind of renewable energy sources to depend on to reach this target, instead opening the door for research into the subject. The UNDP-CEDRO project took this target as the overall guiding road and began undergoing resource assessment studies to identify the potential of renewable energy in Lebanon. To this end, two such studies have been developed to date, the National Wind Atlas for Lebanon that identified at least 1500 MW of economically feasible wind power potential, and the recently published national bioenergy assessment for the country.

This latter study is the first of its kind in Lebanon to scud over all the bioenergy streams that are possible in the country, and organize them in such a way that could paint a picture of the possibilities involved.
The study involved five main tasks.

The first task was the most demanding as it involved a thorough assessment of all the available bioenergy streams in the country. A total of twenty three (23) biomass streams have been identified and fully characterised. These streams have been grouped according their source of origin in:

1. Forestry
2. Wood and paper industries
3. Agriculture
4. Energy crops
5. Food processing industry
6. Municipal solid waste and non-hazardous industrial waste

As a result, the ranking of the ten most promising bioenergy streams are listed below, with the respective primary energy potential (TJ);

Residues from fellings,
Residues of olivetrees,
Residues of fruit trees

Residues of Cereals

Energy crops

Food processing industry
Slaughter house residues
Olive cake by-products

Municipal solid waste and non-hazardous industrial waste
Landfill gas recovery potential
Municipal sewage sludge
Yellow grease

Conversion options include technologies for (1) liquid fuels production, such as production of vegetable oil biodiesel, first generation bioethanol, lignocellulosic ethanol (second generation), animal fat and recycled oil biodiesel among others, (2) biogas production, such as anaerobic co-digestion (manure and agro-wastes), anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge, slaughterhouse waste biogas, and landfill gas potential, (3) direct combustion, such as waste-to-energy, combustion boiler, combined heat and power, and co-combustion of biomass and coal, and (4) pretreatment options, such as pelletization, gasification, and pyrolysis.

From these resource assessments and conversion options, a strict sustainability criterion was adopted in the study where social, economic and environmental implications of bioenergy supply were considered and constraints set. These constrained entailed that only the bioenergy streams that will not have any negative implications, yet may have positive ones, on sustainability criteria, will be considered. The potential of bioenergy is mostly a resource that we have to create from our activities. It not like wind power, for example, where you know the potential if you know the speed of the wind. Taking such considerations, the study then turned its focus on the future through scenarios from the present up to 2030.

The most optimistic scenario indicated that Lebanon can secure approximately 38% of its entire current heating demands, 17% of its transportation fuels, and 3% of its electricity needs (assuming a 4,000 MW capacity planned for 2014) from bioenergy resources.

From a country that sources more than 97% of its primary energy requirements, these values above give substantial backing to Lebanon in becoming more energy independent. Let us out things in perspective. If our gasoline is obliged to be mixed with bioethanol up to 10%, as done in the US and America to various percentages, that is 200,000,000 USD of approximately 2 billion paid annually by Lebanese drivers (2009 values) that would be recycled, minus the capital cost of technology conversion options, mostly to rural agricultural areas. This, like other bioenergy streams, offers a substantial income and employment generating opportunity in these areas. It also offers a substitution to illicit drug production.

Another bioenergy stream, in fact the most important, is forestry residues. If forests are well managed and dry matter collected, processed, compressed and stored for winter, this would greatly contribute to the reduction of forest fires in Lebanon, as well as deliver heating energy for winter instead of facing social unrest every winter due to the expensive diesel prices.

Another example of the study is the Naemeh landfill. This landfill that has been running for years now, has been for years missing out on producing MWs of electricity from methane generation. This is the peal of lost opportunity that the Government of Lebanon does not reap. It is as if Lebanon has a surplus of 1500 MW, not a deficit of this amount.

All in all, this study tells the Government of Lebanon that it must think in new innovative ways. It must put demonstration projects on the identified bioenergy streams to kick-start the market for this resource. It must tackle legislation. For example, let there be a start where legislation will command that biodiesel and gasoline must have a 1% blend of biodiesel and bioethanol, respectively, by 2015. These levels can be increased steadily while monitoring the effects on rural areas, on food production (so that there will be no negative effects), and so forth.

Kindly contact the CEDRO – UNDP project for copies of this study.

Hassan Harajli is UNDP-CEDRO Project Manager