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Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program                                                            
Phase 4 (2009 Deadline)

Solid Waste Management for Bioenergy Production

William J. Orts, US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service
Romana Tabassum, National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering
Pakistani Funding (HEC): $257,000
US Funding (Department of State): $200,000
Project Dates: October 1, 2011 - September 30, 2014 (Extended through February 28, 2015)
 
Project Overview
           
This multidisciplinary project will develop new technology for converting waste into renewable energy, potentially helping to reduce Pakistan’s reliance on petroleum imports as well as the costs of waste treatment. Researchers from USDA and NIBGE will work together to study ways of producing biomethane gas and ethanol from agricultural biomass, industrial waste (including office waste, newsprint, and packaging), and municipal solid waste (MSW). The US principal investigator Dr. Orts is currently involved in operating a pilot-scale MSW-to-bioenergy conversion facility in California; however, this operation has yet to fully integrate the simultaneous production of ethanol and biomethane that is planned for the current project. This new joint project will also look at how different types of waste pretreatments such as enzymes and autoclaving affect relative yields of ethanol versus biomethane. Furthermore, ideal enzyme mixtures must be developed for the types of comingled waste streams typical in Pakistan. By demonstrating the potential environmental and economic benefits of improved waste processing methods, this team ultimately hopes to transfer the technology developed to the private sector for commercialization.
 
Quarterly Update

Both teams have constructed anaerobic digestors producing methane and/or electricity (via methane-to-electricity conversion) at a significant pilot scale. A 50m3 digester was commissioned, installed, tested and operated with success in Pakistan. Data from these runs were presented at two meetings: International Conference on Bio-Energy: Bio-Methane as Alternative Fuel & its Conversion into CNG in August in Lahore and at the conference entitled Science, Technology, and Engineering for Development: From Innovation to Implementation in Islamabad.  Members of the team were also invited to give presentations at the American Chemical Society Meeting in San Francisco and as a keynote at the BioCycle East Coast Conference in Baltimore.

Collaborative research was helped by the arrival in the United States of Nagina Rafique, a senior graduate student from Pakistan. She continues to make outstanding progress with her USDA collaborator, Dr. Dominic Wong, and discussions are under way to extend her tenure beyond six months so that they can complete a manuscript of cloning their optimal strain for better yield.  In addition to Ms. Rafique, four research associates enrolled for PhD are working under this program. 

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