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Agriculture

Cement firm offers to buy rice husks, stalks

- Rose Dela Cruz -

Rice husks and stalks are often regarded as farm wastes that farmers  through the decades have been burning after every harvest.

Instead of sticking to this old habit, which happens to be environmentally unsound, farmers can earn extra income by selling these wastes to a buyer that is willing to pay good money.

Lafarge Cement Services (Philippines) Inc. buys properly dried husks and stalks either through millers or farmers’ cooperatives to ensure that these materials will burn as fast and as hot as coal, which it intends to partially replace for its kiln plants.

The multi-awarded Lafarge Semento group conducted last year its first press plant tour as part of its annual celebration of SHE (Safety, Health and Environment) Week in Teresa, Rizal during which fire drills, evacuation exercises and school tours and art competitions were held to increase the awareness of local communities on the safety features of the cement operations and showcase how serious Lafarge has been in sustaining its operations to uplift the communities where it operates.

Considered the market leader in the Philippines, Lafarge Semento has been stepping up its alternative fuels development program by introducing rice husks as a new form of biomass in its kilns at Republic Cement Teresa and Republic Cement Bulacan.

The project not only enables the company to comply with the requirement to reduce fixed costs under Excellence 2008, the Lafarge Group’s worldwide business efficiency program, but is also in harmony with the French multinational’s sustainable development policy.

Rice husk is the by-product after the grain is milled and the stalks are separated from the grain even before milling. They are then sold by rice producers to any interested party at P1,000 per ton.

The use of rice husks at the Republic plants in Norzagaray, Bulacan and Teresa, in Rizal province, will enable the company to achieve substantial savings on fuel costs, a leading expense item in cement manufacturing.

Lafarge operates five cement plants namely: Republic Cement Bulacan; Republic Cement Norzagaray; Republic Cement Teresa; Republic Cement Batangas and Iligan Cement Corp. in Mindanao.

“We’re working at increasing substitution rates, but supply issues in the local rice industry needs to be addressed,” said Graeme Bride, plant manager at Republic Cement Teresa.

Both the Teresa and Bulacan plants will continue investing in specific equipment needed to meet the fineness and very low density of the husks. “We’re earmarking capital expenditure (capex) for this project because the use of rice husks enables us to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, the price of which is increasing in the Philippines. It will clearly save us energy costs,” adds Bride

Lafarge is now in active discussions with farmers from Luzon regarding the possibility of pooling their dried husks and stalks and designating a drop off point where company trucks will consolidate and pick them up for delivery to the kilns in Teresa and Bulacan.

Apart from the economic advantage the conversion from coal to rice husks will bring for Lafarge, the project will also help the company promote sustainable development and reduce carbon emissions, as required by the Kyoto Protocol, of which the Philippines is a signatory.

The Protocol took effect Feb.16, 2005 and is aimed at containing global warming by obliging developed countries, especially industrial operators, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Lafarge’s project falls under the clean development mechanism (CDM) projects that can be funded by developed countries as part of their compliance to the Kyoto Protocol. Rice husks, being carbon neutral biomass, will help the Lafarge Group to generate CO2 credits that developed countries can buy under CDM of the Kyoto Protocol.

CEMENT

HUSKS

KYOTO PROTOCOL

LAFARGE

LAFARGE GROUP

PLACE

RICE

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