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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 3 (2014 Deadline)

CLEAN project: converting municipal solid waste leachate into energy

PI:  Wiratni Budhijanto (, Universitas Gadjah Mada
U.S. Partner: Largus T. Angenent, Cornell University
Project Dates: October 2014 to April 2018
3-21 Batch Reactors
The complete set of batch reactors with three variations of media (carbon, zeolite, and the mixture of carbon and zeolite).
In the Bantar Gebang Landfill Site, which handles the municipal solid waste (MSW) from Jakarta, the total emitted volume of MSW is 5000-6000 tons/day, with leachate volume reaching 100-1000 m3/day. If treated appropriately, the MSW and leachate potentially produce 500,000 Nm3 of biogas per day, which is equivalent to 200 MWh of electricity per day. Leachate is still considered one of the largest environmental problems in Indonesian landfill sites that are closely surrounded by inhabitants. This research project aims to overcome the leachate problem by transforming the Bantar Gebang Land Fill Site into an environmentally friendly renewable energy plant. The energy plant will include an anaerobic reactor system that will convert MSW to biogas, and the leachate treatment will produce additional biogas and fresh inoculums to accelerate the conversion. The long-term goal will be converting problematic MSW landfill sites into integrated industries to produce energy and other side products beneficial for the surrounding community. The expected scientific achievements will include production of biocarrier materials to improve the efficiency of leachate conversion into renewable energy and development of a systematic scale-up procedure by means of a deterministic mathematical model to apply the results of this research in the sector. Project activities will include laboratory experiments, mathematical model-based computer simulation, year-long operation of the pilot project, and outreach programs involving graduate students, workshops for stakeholders, and training of junior staff and technicians. Collaboration with the U.S. partner, who will provide technical and scientific advice, is expected to open more possibilities for acceleration of clean energy initiatives in Indonesia.

The project developed in a low-carbon energy system framework addresses one of USAID’s current focus areas in support of low-carbon development in Indonesia. This clean energy research project will support efforts to build clean energy capacity by aiming to minimize leachate emission, which has been hazardous for residents in the surrounding area. The developmental impacts expected from this project include: (1) strengthening institutional capacity as one of the prime vehicles for implementing the Indonesian clean energy vision; (2) enhancing international collaboration in the institution's academic activities; (3) promoting environmental cleanup using appropriate technology at an affordable budget, so that the pilot project can be implemented in other landfill sites in Indonesia; (4) triggering new industries to produce the "start-up kit" to accelerate the process and to stabilize the up-flow anaerobic sludge (UASB) reactor treating high organic liquid waste, such as the landfill leachate and industrial liquid wastes, (5) promoting the establishment of an "energy extraction complex," which consists of one biogas reactor, an UASB, an anaerobic filter, and a testing pond, to process MSW into a useful product (biogas plant, biogas liquefaction plant, and organic fertilizer plant), and (6) presenting a method of technology development that would be most appropriate for the Indonesian situation, the community, and the stakeholders.
Summary of Recent Activities

The Complexity of the Organic Waste Problem video produced by the research team (Indonesian).
Dr. Wiratni and her team presented their data and findings from the start-up phase of their Pilot Plant at the Piyungan Landfill Site at the Quality in Research Conference, held in Bali July 25-26, 2017. Meanwhile, with support from USAID’s Research and Innovation Fellowship program, Arizona State University Master’s student Christina Browning spent May 13 to August 8 as an intern in Dr. Wiratni’s lab. During the first month of her stay, she conducted an environmental assessment on the current status of the leachate ponds at the Piyungan Landfill Site and evaluated the potential reduction of environmental risks posed by the leachate if the government continues to scale up the reactor based on the pilot scale project carried out under this PEER award. She subsequently conducted interviews with the management of the landfill site and members of the surrounding community and analyzed data she collected.

On the capacity building side, Dr. Wiratni successfully proposed to her department (the Chemical Engineering Department at UGM) to institute a compulsory course in bioprocess engineering. She and her research group developed the syllabi and also assumed leading roles in the teaching team. The department offered the course for the first time in the February-May 2017 semester as a compulsory subject for chemical engineering students. The PEER group is now in the process of finishing a textbook on bioprocess engineering that will serve as the primary reference for students taking the course next year.

With support provided by a PEER Evidence to Action supplement received in 2016, Dr. Wiratni and her group have also been working to create a realistic business plan for commercialization of their new reactor design. They have developed and honed their plan by working with a business consultant and convening workshops with commercial and government stakeholders. The supplemental funds are also supporting the work of an economic feasibility team to focus on the evaluation of the pilot plant from an economic standpoint. The recent no-cost extension authorized on this project through April 2018 will allow the PI and her team to conduct a workshop about their AFBR reactor technology for relevant government officials at the national level, as well as focus group discussions with various stakeholders, preparation of a policy brief, and publication of their textbook. They will also be incorporating incoming data from the pilot plant into publications they are preparing for international journals.