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UNN research team creates alternative power source

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•Canvasses gasification plant to curb power outage

A team of engineering-based multidisciplinary researchers, under the aegis of the Laboratory of Industrial Electronics, Power Devices and New Energy Systems (LIEPNES), has generated 500KVA of electricity using a locally-fabricated gasification plant.

The engineering system, which was designed and fabricated with 100 per cent local content, converts organic solid materials into synthetic gas for electric power generation and other uses.

The leader of the research team, Prof. Emenike Ejiogu, of Electrical Engineering Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, told reporters that the invention of the gasification plant could be a dependable solution to Nigeria’s power crises if given the needed support for massive production.

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Ejiogu also said that UNN would convert to the homegrown energy system to save it from the huge financial burden it incurs from subscribing to the national grid.

“We improved on the research we did in 2019. What my research team did was to design and fabricate with 100 per cent local content, an engineering system that can convert organic solid wastes into what we call synthetic gas. Synthetic in the sense that you are using available organic material to make gas. Examples of the organic solid fuel that you can use include agro waste such as rice husk, and sawdust from the wood industries.

“What we have done is to take these so-called wastes and turn them into usable energy form which we call synthetic gas. Once that gas is available, you can use it for whatever you can use gas for; including generation of heat, electricity, or run it in a gas generator. You can equally modify a diesel engine to run the gas and produce electricity.

“We did that at the level of 100KVA last two years ago after several years of research work. A couple of days ago, we announced a bigger system, that is 5 megawatts. The work has been the subject of my Masters thesis. For us, it is not new because we have been working on it for years. However, we have reached an extent where we can put it to practical use or commercialise it for broader use of the society, using UNN as a starting point.

“We designed a gasification plant, which converts solid fuel into gas. It is the equivalent of the refinery, which turns crude oil into petrol and other products. As soon as there are enough resources to build enough gasification plants, UNN can comfortably run on it. We would change the already existing diesel generators on campus and modify them to run on gas. By so doing, we don’t have to impose an extra cost of providing gas generators on the institution. We would put the big generators on campus together, synchronize them and inject them into the local mini-grid in the university. We have already started our pilot project, which is the 500KVA plant. We just need six of that to power UNN. We are very much near our goal of providing independent power sources to the university. UNN is keen on the project because the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Arizechukwu Igwe, informed our team that the school spends between N70-80 million on power monthly.”

On the issue of the national power crises, Ejiogu said, “We are using UNN to demonstrate what can be done because charity begins at home. The long-term goal is to provide a homegrown solution to the perennial power problems in Nigeria. Our concept is Distributed Generation, not a bulk generation of power in one station and transmitting to other places. That model is okay at a stage but in a country like Nigeria where we have up to 1,000,000 square kilometers of landmass with difficult terrains, it becomes very difficult to transmit power to rural areas because of the high cost.

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“We generate power close to where we intend to distribute. What it means is that an average city in Nigeria can run on its waste, both the ones generated in the city and nearby agricultural communities. If an average city gets 10 megawatts of electricity daily from its waste products, I can assure you that it would go a long way in solving our power problems.”

“We have 774 local government areas in Nigeria. You can imagine giving each local government 10 megawatts of electricity daily. This can easily be done. We can easily inject 7,740 megawatts, which is more than what we are generating at the central station. I can assure you that each of the local governments has enough wastes both from the agro and other organic wastes to give you 10 megawatts of electricity immediately.

“We have thought about generating power from organic wastes as part of the energy mix in Nigeria. Kanji Dam, solar energy and other power sources will be there, but we want to introduce a mix. What we have done has advantages because we can rapidly inject power into any area where it is needed. An additional advantage is that you are cleaning up the city while you are doing that. In agricultural areas, you see a lot of wastes after the milling processes. The materials are all available. It would equally create massive employment along the value chains of the power generation.”

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In this article:
Emenike EjioguLIEPNESUNN
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