In addition to tremendous solar and wind potential, MENA region also has abundant biomass energy resources which have remained unexplored to a great extent. MENA region offers almost 45 percent of the world’s total energy potential from all renewable sources that can generate more than three times the world’s total power demand.
Biomass potential in the Euro-Mediterranean region is estimated to be 400TWh per year. Technological advancements in the biomass energy industry, coupled with the tremendous regional potential, promises to usher in a new era of energy as well as environmental security for the MENA region.
The major biomass producing countries are Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Traditionally, biomass energy has been widely used in rural areas for domestic purposes in the MENA region, especially in Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. Since most of the region is arid or semi-arid, the biomass energy potential is mainly contributed by municipal solid wastes, agricultural residues and industrial wastes.
Municipal Solid Wastes
Municipal solid wastes represent the best source of biomass in MENA countries with some of the countries being ranked among world’s highest per capita waste generators. The gross urban waste generation quantity from Middle East alone is estimated at more than 150 million tons annually.
Food waste is the third-largest component of generated waste by weight which mostly ends up rotting in landfill and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The mushrooming of hotels, restaurants, fast-food joints and cafeterias in the region has resulted in the generation of huge quantities of food wastes.
Huge quantity of sewage sludge is also produced in the MENA region which presents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment and human health. On an average, the rate of wastewater generation is 80-200 litres per person each day and sewage output is rising by 25 percent every year. According to estimates from the Drainage and Irrigation Department of Dubai Municipality, sewage generation in the Dubai increased from 50,000 m3 per day in 1981 to 400,000 m3 per day in 2006.
Food Processing Wastes
The food processing industry in MENA produces a large number of organic residues and by-products that can be used as biomass energy sources. In recent decades, the fast-growing food and beverage processing industry has remarkably increased in importance in major countries of the region.
Since the early 1990s, the increased agricultural output stimulated an increase in fruit and vegetable canning as well as juice, beverage, and oil processing in countries like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
The MENA countries have strong animal population. The livestock sector, in particular sheep, goats and camels, plays an important role in the national economy of respective countries. Many millions of live ruminants are imported each year from around the world. In addition, the region has witnessed very rapid growth in the poultry sector. The biogas potential of animal manure, poultry litter and abattoirs can be harnessed both at small- and community-scale.
Date Palm Biomass
MENA has more than 84 million date palm trees with the majority in Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates. Egypt is the world’s largest date producer with annual production of 1.47 million tons of dates in 2012 which accounted for almost one-fifth of global production. Saudi Arabia has more than 23 millions date palm trees, which produce about 1 million tons of dates per year.
Date palm trees produce huge amount of agricultural wastes in the form of dry leaves, stems, pits, seeds etc. A typical date tree can generate as much as 20 kilograms of dry leaves per annum while date pits account for almost 10 percent of date fruits. Some studies have reported that Saudi Arabia alone generates more than 200,000 tons of date palm biomass each year.
Salman is a prolific environmental writer, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management, sustainability and conservation all over the world.
Salman can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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