Pakistanis may feel the heat of gas prices even when their stoves get cold this winter. An unprecedented gas crisis is staring the world in the face, and it is hurting low-income countries like Pakistan even more. International gas prices have increased exponentially at a time when Pakistan’s gas reserves are depleting at a fast pace and exploration and production have declined significantly. The Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) predicts that Pakistan’s indigenous oil reserves will be exhausted by 2025. Do we have a solution?
If we go by some of the best international examples, Pakistan does have a solution to fulfil a good part of its gas needs without spending foreign currency, even if no further exploration is done. This solution is not only more equitable and sustainable, but also more suited to health and environment. This solution can also help 78 percent of households who use either wood or LPG. Currently, merely 22 percent households in Pakistan have access to natural gas.
The solution is called biogas, a source of renewable energy that can replace natural gas. By making use of simple technology, biogas is produced by using manure as well as sewage sludge and other organic waste types from industries and households. It is a solution Pakistan has half-heartedly tried through small rural development initiatives with limited success. Our policy makers normally look at biogas as an unfashionable, rural, and small-scale solution.
In fact, countries like Denmark have changed the game in this area and Pakistan can learn from their example and replicate some of the best practices. Denmark and Pakistan are very different countries in most respects. However, one important common point is abundance of livestock in both countries that produce manure. In Pakistan, this manure is often used as low-quality fertilizer without proper treatment or used directly as fuel, which causes serious health hazards.
Biogas production is a green technology that combines energy production with waste treatment. Thus, it can help us make our cities and villages cleaner. When manure is used for biogas production, the emission of greenhouse gasses from handling and storage of slurry is reduced. A by-product from biogas production is high quality natural fertilizer.
Last year, Denmark fulfilled one fourth (25%) of its gas consumption needs through biogas. Biogas production in Denmark is spread throughout the country. Most biogas plants are manure-based agricultural plants located near farms. Other biogas plants are part of wastewater treatment plants located in or near bigger cities. A smaller number of biogas plants are industrial- or landfill plants treating organic wastes from these sites.
Luckily, Pakistan has partnered with Denmark on green transition. This year, Pakistan signed the Green Framework Engagement Agreement with Denmark in order to seek support on the path to green transition. Green transition means moving from the fossil fuels to renewables and sustainable forms of energy. This agreement is also intended to improve Pakistan’s capacity to handle the impact of climate change through mitigation and adaptation.
Thanks to this agreement, Pakistan enjoys technical support from Denmark to harness a huge potential that has remained untapped so far. Scientific studies reveal that hypothetically Pakistan can fulfil 85% of its power demand through 69.5 MT agricultural wastes by generating 45,870 million kWe /annum bioenergy.
Pakistan has plenty of biomass resource such as agricultural and livestock waste, metropolitan and sewage waste. Livestock manure is the chief producer of biogas in Pakistan. According to an estimate, the national herd includes 29.6 million cattle, 27.3 million buffalo, 53.8 million goats, 26.5 million sheep and 0.9 million camels, giving enormous potential for biogas generation. Besides dung, biogas can be produced from slaughterhouses waste and poultry droppings.
Urban centres can also produce biogas by using sewage and solid waste. Major cities could be generated 242 m3 biogas from solid waste to reduce the energy shortfall. In this respect, Karachi bioenergy potential is 72 million m3 and in Lahore is 64 million m3.
Pakistan must build on these opportunities if it wants to go green and fulfil its energy requirements by using local resources.