Although the construction work of a biogas plant with a capacity to produce 80 kilowatts of power in Dashmina upazila of Patuakhali under Barisal was completed in June 2016, it is still sitting idle.
Constructed at a cost of Tk 8.49 crore, the government set up the biogas power plant as part of a seed farm, the largest in the area, on Char Bashbaria.
Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory in Gazipur, owned by Bangladesh Army, was in charge of the construction of the 40,804 square feet plant.
Six Chinese engineers supervised the setup of the plant that began on December 27, 2014, and was later handed over to Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC).
But since then, the environment-friendly plant lies idle.
According to BADC officials, the biogas power plant is ready to run, but it is unable to start operations for a lack of quality straw and skilled manpower to run it.
Md Tasir Hismi, an official of the constructing firm, said, “We set up a modern straw-based biogas/power plant for the first time in Bangladesh. It has been designed to produce the power needed to run the seed farm.”
About 50 kilometres east of Patuakhali city, the seed farm was set up on 1,044 acres of char land. It produces quality seeds that are distributed to farmers across the country by BADC.
The char area is surrounded by rivers on all sides, providing irrigation all year round. The farm was setup at a cost of Tk 245 crore under a four-year government project that ended on June 30, 2017. It also houses a warehouse, dormitory, labour sheds, office buildings, and a workshop.
After the project ended, the seed farm was transferred to BADC on July 1, 2017.
The idea behind the seed farm that includes a biogas power plant was noble.
The fields would produce crops, mainly paddy, for seeds; the straw of the paddy would be dried, cut and processed in the plant to produce power to run the farm and a bi-product of organic fertiliser; the fertiliser would again be used on the crops.
Biswajit Sikder, the then deputy assistant engineer of the seed farm, said the straw would first be processed to produce 500 cubic metres of biogas that would be refined to get 300 cubic metres of pure gas and stored in gas chambers.
The pure gas would run two generators -- one producing 50KW of power and the other 30KW -- to deliver an uninterrupted supply of power to the seed farm, he added.
At present, solar panels light up the office building, while the rest of the infrastructure remains in the dark after sundown.
The biogas/power plant needs 1.5 tonnes of high quality straw a day to produce power and the straw was supposed to be collected from crops that are produced in the farm, he said.
Kishor Kumar Biswas, deputy director of the farm, said, “We are unable to run the power plant for a lack of quality straw.” The straw that is produced in the farm loses quality after it is dried in the sun, he added.
“We also have a dearth of skilled manpower to run the plant.”
He said he wrote to the higher authorities on January 11 in hopes of making the plant functional. He is yet to receive a response.