Pakchong Hybrid Napier Grass

Particularly in Central Luzon, AET is encouraging land owners/plantation managers with land availability of at least 200 hectares or more to consider the Pakchong Hybrid Napier Grass as an attractive energy crop. The Pakchong has been proven to yield higher energy than other types of napier grass and is ideal as feedstock for biomass power plants. The tissue culture of these hybrid was developed by a scientist in Thailand.

Pakchong Hybrid Napier Grass Prospects:

For every 50 hectares of land, AET can bring the best technologies to gasify or combust the Napier Grass for up to 1 MWe of grid fed or captive power.  AET recommends the use of state-of-the-art GE India gasifiers, building on a 2.8 MWe module with either GE Jenbacher or Waukesha reciprocating engines. These first mover projects would require about 200 hectares for every modular gasifier system, if land were planted to the Napier Grass.

For projects above 6 MWe, Rankine cycle / back pressure steam turbine generators (STG), would be favored from technical and financial standpoints.  AET would be responsible for the project development of the biomass power plants with the land owner/plantation working with AET to establish a viable feedstock system to ensure the viability of the downstream biomass to energy power plant.

For every 1,000 hectares planted to the Napier Grass hybrid, AET would develop a 20 MW power plant. –  For  large scale plantation companies with industrial operations, AET would develop the projects to ensure enough captive power to promote energy self sufficiency from the Napier Grass crop planted on lands controlled by the large scale plantation companies.

Project Development Timelines:

  • For the Plantation – First crop cutting by the end of the 8th month, and then quarterly cuttings thereafter for up to 7 years
  • For the Biomass Gasifier Power Plant – Approximately 6 months to turnkey operation
  • For the Biomass Rankine Cycle Boiler /STG Power Plant – 18 months to turnkey operation

Land Availability Requirements:

  • Hard title on the land
  • If the land is tribal, then NCIP endorsement will be required to start the project
  • Minimum 15-year lease agreement preferably with a local invested partner who can manage local regulatory and cultural issues and preferably with options to extend the lease

Growing the Pakchong Hybrid Napier Grass

Energy Crop Potential – The Thai government authorities confirm that yields of 140 tons of bone dry Napier Grass per hectare per year is very possible.  This is based on a total harvest of 570 tons of fresh Napier Grass per hectare per year. Moisture content is 75%; average dry matter is said to be 25%.

Growth – The average growth for HiCross is about 1 meter per month. The crop can be harvested once a quarter.

Water Requirements/Tolerance – The HiCross has excellent resistance to excessive rains and waterlogging during rainy season.  In Thailand (nursery & test farming) and Cambodia (actual plantation), irrigation is required for 4-5 months per year. When needed, the Napier Grass requires irrigation once every 10 days or a total of 68 cubic meters of irrigation per hectare (at those times of the year only).  The Thai government authorities suggest that spray irrigation works well.

Land Suitability – Wet tropical or sub tropical climate with a minimum of 1,200 mm of rain per year;  no extended monsoon season to enable harvesting to near 365 days per year;  acidic red loam or mildly saline soil;  less than 15o inclines  to allow for maximum mechanization.  Napier Grass appears to be suitable as an alternate crop on traditional sugar cane fields.

Planting – Initially, the crop planted can last for 7 years, prior to replanting with new crops.

Fertilization – The Pakchong Hybrid Napier Grass has been developed to utilize little to no fertilizer in the first 2 years.  Starting in year 3, the Thai government researchers would expect that fertilizer costs would be about Thai Baht 300/bone dry ton harvested or about Philippine peso 410/bone dry ton.

Infectious Diseases – While possible infectious diseases need to be studied more aggressively in the Philippines, the Thai government researchers state that there are no infectious diseases that can impact the growth of this particular Hybrid Napier Grass.  According to Thai government researchers, there have been no fungus or rust problems on the plantation or on the test farming areas over the course of several years of study and planting.

Production Costs – The following estimate costs are based on the Thai experience in actual production costs (excluding implied costs of owned land or of leased land):

  • For Year 1 – Thai Baht 31,250 or Philippine peso (Php) 43,750 per hectare.  This cost includes land preparation, such as plowing and planting.  With these foregoing production numbers as reference, the cost per bone dry ton is Thai Baht 223/bone dry ton or Php 312/bone dry ton.
  • For Year 2 – On a per hectare basis, cost is Thai Baht 8,000 or Php 11,200 per hectare. On a per bone dry ton basis, cost is Thai Baht 57 or Php 80.

Adjustments in years 3 to 7 are assumed for increases in the CPI inflation indices. There is likely to be a need for fertilization after year 2 to year 7.

AET welcomes questions and commentaries from interested parties in the land ownership or plantation management areas. A team of professional Pakchong Hybrid Napier Grass professionals is available to visit you at your convenience.