The South Korean Government has funded a new 670 million won (₩) ($587,600) “Waste-to-Energy” plant near Seoul. The first plant of its kind, it is capable of supplying 6,500 cubic metres of bio-gas to the public transport fleet. The plant, opened on 16 June 2011, is the latest in a series of projects that the South Korean Government is supporting in an effort to produce new and renewable energies.
The “Biogas Automotive Fuel” project was built by the Sudokwon Landfill Site Management Corporation. It converts 800 tonnes of food waste from the Seoul metropolitan area into 6,500 cubic metres of biogas per day – enough to power 300 buses and garbage trucks operated by Daewoo, Hyundai and other manufacturing suppliers. The project is part of the “Waste-to-Energy” initiative by the Korean Ministry of Environment, which is partnering with 20 local governments in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. By converting more than 95 per cent of the refined biogas into methane gas, the Ministry expects that up to ₩17 billion ($14.9 million) can be saved per year, while also reducing greenhouse gases by 33,530 tonnes annually.
South Korea is not alone in experimenting with bio-fuel technology. Australia, for example, has introduced a pilot project to convert banana waste into biomethane. The refined biogas can then be used to power cars and generate electricity. The streamlining process requires an anaerobic digester, which yields approximately 398 litres of methane per kilogram of dry bananas. This means one tonne of bananas can supply 7.5 kilowatts of electricity for six to eight households. The potential for implementing this pilot project more widely, however, remains questionable, as the volume of available bananas per year is limited.
If the Waste-to-Energy plan of fermenting biomass proves successful, however, it has the potential to be implemented across the globe. This will help prevent global warming and provide an alternative source to fossil fuels. In addition, it will reduce the level of current energy consumption, leading to lower deficits for large energy consumers such as China and Korea. The South Korean Government is becoming increasingly supportive of the Waste-to-Energy initiative, by making improvements in the licensing procedures for the facilities and by establishing new standards for bio-gas automotive fuel. South Korea is the world’s tenth largest energy consumer and imports 97 per cent of its energy. Efforts to increase its renewable energy resources have the potential to considerably improve its energy self-sufficiency.
FDI Global Food and Water Crises Research Programme