Sarawak Energy Engages Expert To Assist In Greenhouse Research

Research zones in on the quantification of greenhouse gases from hydropower reservoir 

KUCHING, 11 DECEMBER, 2016, SUNDAY: Sarawak Energy has engaged the help of a research scientist from an international university to investigate the phenomenon of greenhouse gas (GHG) in particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emissions from its hydropower reservoir. 

Yves Prairie, a global expert in the Study of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Aquatic Systems and a full professor at the Université du Québec á Montréal in Canada, has been conducting research on GHG emissions from tropical hydropower reservoir in Sarawak specifically from the Batang Ai Hydroelectric Plant’s reservoir since 2014. 

According to Dr Chen Shiun, Sarawak Energy General Manager for Research and Development, the GHG Emissions from Hydropower Reservoir project was initiated in 2010 with the aim to quantify the GHG emissions from hydropower reservoirs within Sarawak. Besides comparing the emission values from reservoirs with those from fossil fuel generation plants such as natural gas and coal, the research also aims to improve understanding of the biogeochemical processes behind these emissions that would be useful for designing better hydropower projects. 

“Professor Prairie is assisting us in our research on GHGs emission from Batang Ai HEP’s reservoir. As the corporation pursues hydropower development to generate power for the state’s growth, this research initiative is essential and aligned to our careful considerations on the impact our operations have in terms of social, economic and environment. Furthermore, Sarawak Energy adopts the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol in the development of its hydropower projects to ensure these projects are developed in a sustainable manner,” he said.

Professor Prairie’s scope of research is to quantify, investigate and understand the biogeochemical processes leading to GHG production and emissions from the hydropower reservoir. 

From the preliminary findings from Phase 1 of the research study, it was verified that hydropower reservoirs in Sarawak are of low GHG emissions compared to other fossil fuel power sources. However, there still remain some uncertainties which need to be addressed in order to better understand the dynamics of the reservoir system in terms of Carbon Dioxide and Methane production. 

Following this, the research has now entered its second phase and a PhD student from the university has also came on board to join Professor Prairie on the study. This second phase will be a follow up study to further investigate and rationalise the underlying processes leading to GHG emissions as well as verifying emission patterns from tropical freshwater reservoirs. 


Recently, Professor Prairie gave a technical talk entitled “Greenhouse Gases From Aquatic Systems” to a group of 30 comprising staff of Sarawak Energy, students and lecturers from Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak and Universiti Teknologi MARA Sarawak at Menara Sarawak Energy. The talk’s highlight were on understanding the phenomenon on the production of GHGs from aquatic systems, best practices to sample GHGs and the basic physical and biological processes that affect their magnitude and also variability. 

Professor Prairie holds a UNESCO Chair in Global Environment Change and currently is the President of the International Society of Limnology. His research interests combine carbon and nutrient biogeochemistry, statistical modelling of ecosystem processes and physical limnology. Limnology is the study of inland waters like lakes, reservoirs, rivers, wetlands and more as ecological systems interacting with their drainage basins and the atmosphere. 

The global perception of tropical reservoirs is that they are high emitters of GHGs due to the warm climate which drives the decomposition rate of organic matters flooded by the dam’s impoundment. This decomposition leads to the production of carbon dioxide and methane within the reservoir.

However, till today there remains to be very few large-scale GHG studies conducted in tropical reservoirs, and hence this research being conducted on tropical reservoirs is crucial in providing scientific data which will help us to understand the true emission status of our tropical reservoirs. 

Professor Prairie giving a technical talk entitled “Greenhouse Gases From Aquatic Systems”.

Professor Prairie has been conducting research on GHG emission from tropical hydropower reservoir in Sarawak.