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October 2013, Volume 4, No.

5 International Journal of Chemical and Environmental Engineering

Thermo-Economic Analysis of a Novel Conceptual Process Model for Sustainable Power Plants using Empty Fruit Bunches
Dhanaraj Turunawarasua,* ; Yen Pinng Chana ; Wan Petra Anisha Wan Muhaiminb ; Lian Hung Honb ; Osama Bukhari Syedb ; Thi Hoai Vy Nguyenb ; Azry B Borhanb
a b

Department of EngineeringPETRONAS , Kuala Lumpur Department of Chemical Engineering,Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) * Corresponding Author E-mail:

Empty Fruit Bunch waste generation rate from the oil palm industry in Malaysia reaches up to 280,000 tons per year. Large amount of oil palm wastes available spell biomass energy potential. Although the more common methods in managing oil palm wastes are incineration, anaerobic decomposition and fast pyrolysis, to be able to manage wastes while generating sufficient power and being free of carbon footprint is a challenge. This paper has its focus set on utilizing empty fruit bunch (EFB) from oi l palm because 23% of palm wastes are made up of EFB. A technology that can convert waste into energy while at the same time able to recover water from the biomass waste is an entirely new notion. The main concept here is that the high water content in EFB be extracted for steam generation. Steam generated coupled with flue gas produced from incineration of biomass wastes will then both lead to power generation, thus creating a sustainable EFB waste management system with production of useful side-products. With a novel incinerator cum boiler design and utilization of steam turbine, the proposed biomass waste management and power generation system is actually self-sustainable and capable of power export of up to 10MW with an additional 2.5MW reserved for auxiliary purposes. Along with economic analysis and simulation using HYSYS, the plant has proven its functional, environmental and economic feasibility; based on Malaysian data as reference. Keywords: EFB; waste management; incinerator cum boiler; self-sustainable; environmental; energy

1. Introduction
Incineration technology is not new in Malaysia. However, to be able to produce sufficient power while being free of carbon footprint is the bigger issue. Our aim therefore, is to design a biomass power plant that brings forth a sustainable and environmental friendly solution to answer the need of transforming biomass waste effectively into value added products that preserves the livelihood of people while achieving and exceeding the baseline of zero emission [1],[2]. Based on a study done by Mahlia et al. [3] on alternative energy source from palm wastes industry for Malaysia and Indonesia, a mill in Malaysia with a capacity of 30 tons fresh fruit bunch (FFB)/hr have shown that fiber and shell from processing FFB can be used as fuel in energy production. This proves the plausibility of power generation from oil palm waste source. Here, the focus is set on using empty fruit bunch (EFB) because 23% of palm wastes are made up of EFB [4]. Now, as reported by the Malaysian Department of Environment, water content of EFB can be as high up to 63.8wt [3]. This can be severely unfavorable for incineration because water content hinders combustion. Since EFB contains high percentage of water content, it actually gives light to the possibility of utilizing the extracted water for good. A technology that can convert waste to energy while at the same time can also recover water from the biomass waste, is an entirely new concept to implement. The gist of this plant design is that the high water content in empty fruit bunch (EFB) be extracted for steam generation. Steam generated coupled with flue gas produced from incineration of biomass wastes shall both lead to power generation- expected to be able to meet the auxiliary needs of the plant and in excess for power export; thus creating a self-sustainable EFB waste management system with production of useful side-products as well. Although the more popular methods in managing empty fruit bunches (EFB) are direct fired combustion, anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis and torrefaction, the future of energy generation and environmental preservation calls for a sustainable technological solution that can dispose EFB, turn it into biomass energy in order to power life in an economical and carbon free way [4], [5]. Development of sustainable renewable energy, contribution to effective waste management and

Thermo-Economic Analysis of a Novel Conceptual Process Model for Sustainable Power Plants using Empty Fruit Bunches

preservation of environment while being economical can be anticipated from the proposed conceptual plant. This paper aims to illustrate: The conceptual design of a zero emission biomass power plant that is able to supply 10 MW net electricity to the Peninsula Malaysia National Grid (PMNG) electricity distribution system The feasibility studies of the power plant from material and energy balance, process flow, process simulation and economic analysis point of view

2.2 Empty Fruit Bunch Drying Process

To improve the combustion efficiency, the water-rich EFB waste should first be dried. Its water content is actually a potential water source that can be utilized, of which most conventional thermal waste management techniques do not take advantage of. It is proposed that a direct (hot air) rotary dryer be used, due to its potential in terms of solvent recovery (see Fig. 2). Atmospheric air is first heated using spent flue gas, which still contains a significant amount of waste process heat that cannot be discharged directly to the atmosphere and should be recovered with this heat integration. The heated atmospheric air is then directed in a counter current fashion against the wet EFB waste, thereby achieving the desired drying effect. The rotating motion of the dryer helps maximize the exposed surface area and encourage even drying. The dried waste is then sent directly to the incinerator. Meanwhile, the humid air is passed through a climate changer or dehumidifier, which is essentially made of cooling coils. Water runs through them as the refrigerant, and chilling is achieved using a packaged chillers. The condensate is then collected and sent for treatment. Approximately 168000 ton/year of water to be used for steam generation can be produced from this drying, condensation and filtration system. Fig. 3 below shows the cross sectional view of the rotary dyer.

2. Methodology 2.1 General Process Description

In our practical process, EFB will be processed using the direct combustion method; the flue gas is then used to generate steam, converted to electricity via a steam turbine. First, empty fruit bunch (EFB) will go through drying using the heat from the spent flue gas of the incinerator because removal of moisture improves combustion efficiency. The moisture is then collected, condensed and filtered for use, to significantly reduce the amount of make-up water required for the boiler. The dried EFB later enters the incinerator and is combusted. Here, the incinerator is encased by the boiler, which absorbs combustion heat lost through the walls of the incinerator. Ash from the incinerator will subsequently be collected and sold separately as fertilizer ash for agricultural uses. At the same time, flue gas will pass through tubes immersed in the water inside the boiler, thereby transferring its heat to generate steam. With the spent flue gas still having a relatively high amount of heat, it is then used in the aforementioned drying of EFB. The steam generated shall generate electricity via a steam turbine, which can then be exported or used on-site. Fig. 1 below shows the process flow diagram of our proposed empty fruit bunch management and power generation system.

Figure 2. EFB Rotary Dryer

2.3 Boiler Feed Water Treatment

There are two water sources for the generation of steamone from the recovered condensate from drying process and the other from battery limits. These sources (collectively feedwater) are first filtered in a textile prefilter bed to remove solid impurities such as minute ash carryover from the rotating dryer. The filtered condensate enters a tank, where biocide is injected to kill microorganisms that may cause biological fouling to the pipes. In order to make up for the steam lost in the downstream process, collected steam condensate is also added here. Next, a degassing unit is employed to strip off the various dissolved gases from the rotating dryer. The stripping medium is exhausted low pressure steam from steam turbine. Right after the degassing unit is the activated carbon filter. The degassing unit also serves the

Figure 1. Process Flow Diagram


Thermo-Economic Analysis of a Novel Conceptual Process Model for Sustainable Power Plants using Empty Fruit Bunches

purpose of removing dissolved carbon dioxide which can shorten the service duration of the activated carbon filter. The activated carbon filter removes very fine impurities and dissolved organics. The condensate further passes through the demineralization unit, which removes ions that can cause scaling using resin ion exchange technology. Finally, a final polishing unit serves to ensure that the boiler feed water is up to the desired quality, thereby minimizing the negative impact to the boiler. The following Fig. 3 shows the process flow diagram of the BFW treatment.

Since the incineration is partially adiabatic, about 0.36 MW heat is expected to be released through radiation and convection from the incinerator wall, which will be reserved for steam generation as well because the incinerator is designed in such a way that it is contained in a boiler system. In common technology nowadays, heat dissipated from the incinerator wall is basically released into the environment, thus causing global warming. Here, the boiler is estimated to require 61 MW heat to evaporate the water in the boiler in order to produce superheated steam at 500C, 50 bar for power generation (12.5 MW) via steam turbine. For the typical range of moisture extracted from the EFB, energy balances have showed that the cooled flue gas still has a significant amount of energy at 480 C. This is the reason cooled flue gas is recycled back to the drying unit to heat the atmospheric air where it will be directed in a counter current fashion against the wet solid waste, thereby achieving the desired drying effect in a sustainable way. With the novel incinerator cum boiler design that is coupled with heat integration work, the system is expected to deliver sustainability and energy efficiency. Detailed Material and Energy Balance was carried out prior to process simulation to justify the feasibility of the research.

Figure 3. BFW Treatment

3. Process Simulation

2.4 Incinerator-Boiler Unit

This unit is the heart of the process. It is a novel combination of a boiler and an incinerator, designed to capture the combustion heat lost through the walls of the incinerator, as shown in the Fig. 4.

Figure 5. ASPEN HYSYS Model of EFB Power Plant

Figure 4. Incinerator-Boiler Unit

The dried EFB and 15% of excess air will first be fed into the incinerator where combustion will occur at 1800C, 1 atm. The source of ignition for the incinerator shall take place in a spark plug concept. The total heat that is carried by the flue gas is approximately 75 MW, which will be utilized for steam generation by circulating it back into the boiler through heat exchanging tubes that are immersed in the water.

Figure 6. ASPEN HYSYS Model of Acid Gas Removal from Incinerator Hot Flue Gas


Thermo-Economic Analysis of a Novel Conceptual Process Model for Sustainable Power Plants using Empty Fruit Bunches Table 1: Stream Specifications on Incinerator cum Boiler Unit

Stream Temperature (C) Pressure (kPa) Molar Flow (kmol/h) Mass Flow (kg/h) C H O S CO2 H2O SO2 NO N

Dried EFB 27.04 80 1067 1.18E+04 0.2437 0.1874 0.0688 0.0004 0.0000 0.4993 0.0000 0.0000 0.0004

Air For Combustion 25 100 3854 1.11E+05 0.0000 0.0000 0.2100 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.7900

Hot Flue Gas

Cool Flue Gas

Ash 1456 80 52.03 6.27E+02 0.9985 0.0000 0.0000 0.0015 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000

BFW 26.03 4980 3582 6.45E+04 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 1.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000

HP Steam 495 4970 3582 6.45E+04 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 1.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000

1456 35.09 80 70 4221 4221 1.22E+05 1.22E+05 Composition 0.0000 0.0000 0.0095 0.0095 0.0008 0.0008 0.0000 0.0000 0.1108 0.1108 0.0852 0.0852 0.0002 0.0002 0.1443 0.1443 0.6493 0.6493

Table 2. Stream Specifications on Acid Gas Removal Unit

Stream Temperature (C) Pressure (kPa) Molar Flow (kmol/h) Mass Flow (kg/h) C H O S CO2 H2O SO2 NO N DEA

11 40 78.11 4211 1.22E+05 0.0000 0.0095 0.0008 0.0000 0.1108 0.0852 0.0002 0.1443 0.6492 0.0000

Lean DEA

40 88.34 110 110 3582 3583 2.90E+05 2.90E+05 Composition 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0815 0.1556 0.2191 0.2041 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.6994 0.6403

To SO2/NO Removal Unit 62.94 78 3891 1.08E+05 0.0000 0.0103 0.0009 0.0000 0.0038 0.0889 0.0002 0.1565 0.7043 0.0000

Rich DEA 62.6 78 3912 3.05E+05 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.1556 0.2041 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.6403

CO2 28.62 110 329.9 1.42E+04 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.9642 0.0357 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000

4. Economic Analysis
The total equipment cost, fixed capital investment cost, total production and operating cost have been calculated to verify the plants economic feasibility. Profitability analysis was also performed by calculating the internal rate of return (IRR), payback period, both discounted and non-discounted cash flow. Follow summarizes the findings:
Table 3. Economic Analysis

Based on the material and energy balances, the power generation plant is able to export 12.5MW of electricity power in which 2.5MW will be used for auxiliary purposes. According to publication from the Malaysian Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water, the FiT
rate for biomass installed capacity of up to 10MW is of RM0.31/kWh, much to the favour of our plant economics [11].

Equipment Cost [7] Fixed Capital Investment Total CAPEX [8] Total production cost [9], [10] Total Annual Revenue Gross Profit Unit Profit Payback period IRR (%)

2.415 mil US$ 11.907 mil US$ 15.054 mil US$ 8.416 mil US$/ yr 14.404 mil US$ 5.988 mil US$ 50 US$/tonne 4 year 54

Assuming that the plant operates for 330 days/year, the preliminary economic calculations have proven that the generated power is not only able to feed into the national grid for good with spare for auxiliary purposes, it is able to generate a steady return for the investment- striking two birds with one stone.


Thermo-Economic Analysis of a Novel Conceptual Process Model for Sustainable Power Plants using Empty Fruit Bunches

5. Sustainability of System
The proposed power generation plant with oil palm empty fruit bunch (EFB) as main feedstock here has taken into consideration some of the key elements of sustainability issue from the environmental, economic and social point of views, all as described below [12]: Water conservation: By fully utilizing the water content obtained from the drying of EFB and condensation, the system actually avoids consumption of any external water supply; for it promotes sustainable regional water management strategy through extraction and effective recycling. Heat conservation: Unlike common systems where heat loss is a major concern, this system integrates the heat dissipated from incinerator wall to be a heat supply to the boiler, added with recycled flue gas energy;
thus supplying reliable energy source while minimizing unwanted heat release to the environment which in turn promotes clean energy generation technology.

generation and environmental conservation. In the future, it is recommended that extent of combustion reaction be improved while hot utility required for flue gas pre-heating be reduced through further heat integration and a better utility system design.

Authors would like to express their gratitude to the Faculty of Chemical Engineeering,Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP), Malaysia for their support.

[1] Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat. (2009). Standards for oil palm fibre. [Online]. Available:
[2] G. Pauli, Technology forecasting and assessment: the case of zero emissions, Technological forecasting and social change 58 (1998) 53-62. T.M.I. Mahlia, M.Z. Abdulmuin, T.M.I. Alamsyah , D. Mukhlishien, An alternative energy source from palm wastes industry for Malaysia and Indonesia, Energy conversion and management 42 (2001) 2109-2118. C.M. Fibre Processing Sdn Bhd. (2011). History. [Online] Available: Y. Uemura, W.N. Omar, T. Tsutsui, S. Yusup, Torrefaction of oil palm wastes, Fuel 90 (2011) 25852591. V. Anderson, Plant layout. In Kirk Othmer, Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, John Wiley & Sons, New York 3 23-43. Coulson & Richardson, Chemical & Biochemical reactors & process control, Chemical Engineering, Pergamon, Wiltshire, 3(3) (1994) Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). (2012). Incentives for Environmental Management. [Online] Available: M.S. Peters, K.D. Timmerhaus, R.E. West, Plant Design and Economics for Chemical Engineers, United States: McGraw-Hill 5 (2003)

Waste management: It helps to get rid of the abundant yet non-sustainable and environmentally worrying biomass wastes. On the other hand, ash collected from this process can be further treated to be used as fertilizer- giving back to the community [13]. Energy efficient: No external power supply is needed because the utility electricity generated within the process is expected to operate the dryer, filtration system, incinerator and turbine. In fact, electricity generated in this process will mainly be delivered to the national grid which is not only profitable, renewable but also sustainable. Prevention of COx and NOx emission: The temperature and content of flue gas is kept under


[4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

control to prohibit harmful COx and NOx production, which is currently a global attempt to minimize environmental pollution and global warming [14], [15].


6. Conclusion
The proposed system has successfully utilized a nonfossil energy source which is oil palm EFB, where an appreciable amount of useful energy from the biomass wastes was fully harnessed. Detailed mass and energy balance have thereby shown that the designed plant is capable of delivering 10MW of electricity to supply the national power grid with an additional 2.5MW reserved for auxiliary purposes using 280,000 tons per year of EFB supply. The plants effluent, gas discharges and operating hazards were also taken under full consideration to abide by local environmental and safety regulations. With that, a thorough economic analysis which leads to an expected gross profit of 5.988mil US$ per year and estimated payback period of 1 year further strengthened the economic plausibility of the designed plant. This novel approach in harnessing energy and recovering water in a sustainable biomass management system should be able to fulfil the local demand of developing countries in terms of power

[10] D.N. Veritas, Avoided emissions from biomass wastes through use as feed stock in pulp And paper Kunak, Sabah Production I.E. Eko Pulp And Paper Project in Malaysia, CDM validation report template 14(2010) [11] Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA). (2011). Facts on FiT. [Online] Available: [12] IChemE. (2007). A roadmap for 21st century chemical engineering. [Online]. Available: cal%20roadmap%20for%2021st%20century%20chemical%20engi neering.aspx [13] R. Devi, V. Signh, A. Kumar, COD and BOD reduction from coffee processing wastewater using Avacado peel carbon, Bioresource Technology 99-6 (2008) [14] E. Halkos, Evaluating the direct costs of controlling NOx emissions in Europe, MPRA paper, University Library of Munich, Germany (2000) [15] E.S. Rubin, IPCC special report on carbon dioxide capture and storage, RITE International workshop on CO2 geological storage (2006)