Nov 23, 2012

Brunei - Peat seen as viable energy source

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PEAT dug up during road construction and house building could be a viable energy source, researchers at Universiti Brunei Darussalam said at a sustainable energy conference yesterday.

PhD students Cheng Hei Ing (pic, L) and Tasneem Zehra (pic, R) said 18 per cent of Brunei's land area was covered with peat, which could be burnt to produce electricity or used to filter toxic chemicals out of drinking water.

The postgraduate students said peat taken from three locations around the country was combustible enough to use as an alternative to oil and gas, and could even fuel electric power plants.

"We found that the energy content of the peat is similar to that in other countries such as Greenland and Ireland, where they use it for energy purposes such as heating and electricity. They burn it for fuel generation," said Cheng, who presented her findings at the Sustainable Future Energy Conference 2012 in Gadong.

Cheng, 25, said developers often discarded large amounts of peat when building roads and housing, which could be better used.

Canada produces 34 per cent of its alternative energy from peat, while in Ireland, large-scale domestic and industrial peat usage is widespread, she said.

Cheng also pointed out that peat could be used to absorb toxic substances, such as heavy metals and dyes, out of the water supply.

"Methylene blue and malachite green are two very common dyes used in the textile industry. They are very toxic, especially if they are released into the water system," Cheng said. There is concern that burning peat which acts as a carbon sink, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would release significant quantities of CO2 back into the atmosphere and add to global warming, but Cheng dismissed the claim. "According to our study, it is more environmentally friendly than burning coal and fuel oil and it has a low carbon content," Cheng said. However, peat is not considered a renewable energy source or biofuel by the United Nations or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which classifies it as a fossil fuel because it is extracted in industrialised countries far faster than it grows. Cheng and Tasneem are currently halfway through their PhD research at UBD.

"If we get a good result (from our research) ... it could be possible to find some investors because it's quite a waste to throw peat away. We might as well use it for some other purpose," Cheng said.


The Brunei Times

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