Addressing the very challenging physical and chemical properties of rice straw as an energy feedstock in a way that yields direct benefits for local communities
This EPSRC funded project will bring together wheat straw physiology and bioenergy technology experts from the SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub along with rice straw experts, engineers, social scientists and extension staff from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to form the core research team.
The project team will work together in partnership on 5 work packages that will effectively transfer knowledge between the partners to address the obstacles to sustainable development of energy from waste rice straw. These include:
1. Understanding the rice straw and the specific challenges (technical, economic and social) associated with using it for energy purposes;
2a. Evaluating the technical and economic performance of different technology options for delivering energy from rice straw - carrying out conversion trials of rice straw in the Philippines using different conversion technologies (e.g. gasification, combustion and anaerobic digestion) to develop projections of how a whole system based on these different conversion options would perform at different scales across a range of technical and economic criteria e.g. capital cost installed, payback time, break even price of heat generated etc;
2b. Using stakeholder engagement to identify the technical and non-technical barriers associated with energy conversion of rice straw, including issues such as viable business models for project development;
3. Quantifying the environmental impact of the most promising conversion options, including crucially the greenhouse gas benefits;
4. Understanding the energy needs and technology preferences of local communities via focus group discussions, that involve not just farmers (with a feedstock focus) but also their households (as end users with cooking needs, electricity, food storage etc) to account for whole community concerns in a gender-sensitive way. Rice millers, village leaders and policy makers will also be involved in discussions to gain a wider range of perspectives that will inform the study;
5. Enabling development of the rice straw-energy technologies by engagement with a variety of local and international stakeholders and addressing the key issue of development risk by demonstrating technology viability at a facility to be built at IRRI's Experimental Station.