DDL tests dual fuel engine in push towards clean energy

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By Neil Marks

Eight years after it began converting waste from its distillery to methane gas to power its boilers, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) is now testing a dual fuel engine to determine if it can generate its energy needs LNG, the liquefied form of natural gas.

“Once we prove everything, and the economics work out, we are due to replace and upgrade our power generating capabilities.

“At that point LNG could factor as a very significant source of energy – which could be in a year or two to come,” said Mr Komal Samaroo, Chairman of DDL, which ranks as one of Guyana largest and most diversified operations.

He was speaking Wednesday at the launch of ICON LNG, the Trinidad company which has converted a small part of DDL’s power generating equipment to run both on diesel and natural gas, with a mix of 60% natural gas and 40% oil fuel. The dual-fuel system allows the use of natural gas in existing equipment while having the ability to run on diesel as a back-up.

Outside of its bio-methane plant, the DDL generates the rest of its power from diesel to fuel it’s 24/7 operations.

Natural gas is a clean energy source, emitting less of Greenhouse gases, such as Carbon Dioxide, which trap heat in the atmosphere, making the earth warmer and generating changes in the climate which bring on extreme weather events, such as flooding and droughts.

According to ICON LNG, preliminary results from the dual fuel engine at DDL has shown 10.9 tons less emission of Carbon Dioxide since the testing began in mid-October.

“The results are promising; we expect it can be better over time,” said Nelson Garcez, Vice President for Commercial Development at ICON LNG.

“We are operating with one unit – engine – in the fleet…when we get all the engines and all the operations, we hope the results can be even better,” he added.

The DDL project was hailed by the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), the energy arm of the government.

“Natural gas in this form, in the LNG form, presents an opportunity to displace dirtier fossil fuels, and in this case diesel,” said Dr Mahender Sharma, the Chief Executive Officer of the GEA.

He suggested that the project feeds into the government’s goal to transition to cleaner forms of energy before the country graduates to the use of 100% renewable energy by 2025.

“Demand (for energy) is growing every day, and the development of energy projects take quite a bit of time… and because of the rate of demand you have to have enough generating capacity available to meet that demand, otherwise, you will end up with scheduled outages…,” Sharma added.

The Guyana Office for Investment (GoInvest) has also supported the DDL project. Mr Owen Verwey, the Chief Executive Officer of GoInvest, said that for some companies, energy is the highest expense.

“We knew for sure, the efforts of GO-Invest, together with GEA, to grant some sort of incentives to ensure that this pilot project is successful wasn’t in vain,” Verwey stated.

While ICON LNG serves a supplier of natural gas to private electricity generators, the company has been watching government’s move set up a 50MW Capacity Dual Fuel (HFO and Natural Gas) fired power plant.

“That is certainly on our radar,” said John Thompson, President and Chief Financial Officer of INCON LNG.

“We have the capability to set up a much larger supplier chain using…an LNG vessel and have a small receiving terminal that fuels that plant.

“Once you have an LNG terminal in your country, then there is the potential to open up new sectors,” he stated.

The government has committed to reducing dependence on fossil fuels for energy generation, achieving close to 100% renewables by 2025 through a diversified renewable energy infrastructure including biomass, solar, wind and hydropower.

Historically, Guyana has depended on imported petroleum-based fuels as its primary source of energy. Between 2012 and 2016, Guyana imported roughly $300-600 million per year in fossil fuels (mostly refined fuels), accounting for 15-33% of imports.

In 2014, 83% of Guyana´s total installed power generation capacity consisted of fossil fuels, whilst 17% came from renewable sources, including biomass (bagasse) and hydroelectric plants.  The transport sector uses most of the imported fuel – 38 percent – followed by electricity generation, which uses 33 percent.

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