A recent survey carried out by a group of scientists attached to the Rice Processing Research and Development Centre and the Resource Management Associate Ltd. say an average of 50 percent of paddy husk produced by rice mills use husk as their fuel for steam generation.
Scientists D. P. Senanayaka, , U. Daranagama and M. D. Fernando said that the paddy husk is a major by-product of the rice milling industry and at present around 540,000 metric tons of husk areproduced annually.
According to the research, in the majority of rice processing areas, husk is considered as waste material and its disposal often create environmental problems.
The Sscientists said an average of 44 percent of husk produced is left unutilized in all mill clusters in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts.
According to their estimates, available husk could produce over 20 mega watts of electricity.
The rice processing industry produces more than 2.5 million metric tons of rice each year and provides a large number with employment, particularly women in rural areas.
At present, around 7000 rice mills operate in the country. However, in the majority of rice processing areas, rice husk is considered a waste material and its disposal often creates environmental problems.
The scientists alsosaid modern rice mills have improved technologies to generate thermal energy from paddy husk. The results of this study reveals that there was a trend to improve existing rice mills in the North Central Province to produce high quality rice to the market. However, present data on rice mills improvement say around 13 per cent mills have improved their machineries to produce quality rice in that province.
The study has revealed that an average of 48 per cent of husk produced by the mills is used as a fuel for steam generation.
Faced with fuel wood shortage in the country, rural industries have been forced to use rice husk as an alternative fuel. There has been a number of government and industrial initiatives to use existing fuel wood resources more efficiently and introduce alternative biomass fuels such as rice husk.
Various forms of assistance have been given to bakeries, the tea industry, drying of tobacco, brick and tile manufacturers. The scientists say rice husk could be used as an industrial fuel, but needs improved technology.
Meanwhile, the scientists opined that more than 90% of Sri Lanka’s bakeries use firewood to fuel their ovens, accounting for 9% of total biomass fuel used in the country as of 1995.