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VTT boosts industrial leveraging of Vietnam’s solid biomass fuel resources


Vietnam has substantial biomass resources, which currently are mainly used by households and small businesses. VTT is developing the leveraging of Vietnam’s solid biomass fuel resources on an industrial scale in the Energy and Environment Partnership Programme run by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The purpose of the project is to develop multi-fuel delivery chains for power plants and industrial boilers. Because biomass, particularly when it is agriculture-based, is very much a seasonal product, the use of several different types of biomass fuels will ensure availability all year round. Storage plays also a key role in the use of seasonal raw materials. Biomass delivery development will enable an increase in the use of biomass fuel at major power plants in Vietnam.

The project involves exploring how to make waterway transport more efficient, how to use road transport, and how to mechanise loading and unloading functions. At the moment, the rice husks that are used for fuel are transported by ship, and loading and unloading is largely carried out manually. Another purpose of the project is to improve the quality, availability, storage, multi-fuel use and pelleting of the raw material. Delivery agreements are also being improved. Solutions developed in Finland are being leveraged in the project.

In 2011, the project involved exploring the current biomass delivery chains and identifying the principal bottlenecks. Case studies were outlined on how to improve the delivery chain with regard to transport, storage, pelleting, multi-fuel use and agreements. Some of these improvements will be translated into practice in 2012. 

In 2005, solid biomass fuels accounted for 162 TWh of Vietnam’s total energy consumption of 415 TWh, or about 39%. At the moment, the share of biomass fuel use is actually lower than that, as total energy consumption has grown at a faster rate than biomass fuel use. Biomass use is principally for household use, i.e. burning wood and rice husks. There are also numerous small businesses in Vietnam that use biomass for heating and steam generation, such as ceramics workshops. At present there is only one large steam-generating plant in Vietnam that uses biomass as its raw material. Sugar plants use the by-products of crushing sugar cane to generate power and heat, but only for the plants’ own use.

Biomass materials typically available in Vietnam include wood, rice husks, by-products of crushing sugar cane, coffee bean husks and coconut shells. The majority of harvesting waste and processing by-products that are generated can be used as biomass fuel. In 2009, the overall production potential for solid biomass is estimated to have been 104 million tonnes, equal to 322 TWh, 70% of it from agriculture by-products and 30% from firewood.

Some biomass is used in different ways in agriculture and in energy production. In 2010, the production potential for agriculture by-products was 18.6 million tonnes (61 TWh). This mainly consisted of rice straw (60%), followed by rice husks (8%) and by-products of crushing sugar cane (9%). Wood-based by-products are already being used quite effectively, so it would be difficult to increase their use for energy production. However, there is a lot of potential for increasing the percentage of biomass fuel use in energy production in Vietnam by leveraging agriculture by-products.

Vietnam is about the same size as Finland in surface area but has a population of about 86 million. Of its land area, 22% is arable land, 29% is forest, and 44% is barren wasteland. The total use of energy in Vietnam is modest compared to that of Finland (408 TWh in 2007).

VTT is partnered in this project with the Institute of Energy in Hanoi.