US technology to convert rice stubble into bio-fuel, not smog - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 6 November 2019

US technology to convert rice stubble into bio-fuel, not smog

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 6th Nov 19

While Delhi’s residents work through a blanket of choking smog, caused largely by farmers burning fields of rice stubble in Punjab, the key to at least alleviating this problem was turned in Bangkok on Monday.

The United States Trade Development Authority (USTDA) signed up to allocate a grant of $300,000-500,00 for an Indian engineering firm, The Virgo Group, to carry out a “scoping study” for setting up a plant near Bhatinda that will convert the stubble from harvested rice fields into green “bio-fuel”.

The “scoping study” will determine how much bio-fuel can be extracted from the rice stubble. Based on this study, Virgo Group’s Bhatinda plant will customise “Rapid Thermal Processing” technology from Envergent Technologies – a subsidiary of US technology giant, Honeywell – to convert agricultural waste to biocrude, reducing air pollution and creating a new fuel source.

The project is being strongly supported by the Punjab government, which signed an agreement with Virgo Group on February 11 for facilitating the plant, including with concessional land. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh himself attended that signing.

Also backing the project is US envoy to India, Kenneth Juster, who was at the signing in Bangkok.

“We are extremely grateful to the Government of India, Government of Punjab, USTDA, the US Embassy in Delhi and our technical collaborators Honeywell US in jointly working with us to overturn one of the most serious environmental challenges that India is currently facing,” said Kanav Monga of Virgo Group after the signing.

Another key driver of this project is Punjab’s finance minister, Manpreet Badal, who belongs to Bhatinda, where the Bhatinda Refinery will blend the green bio-fuel with regular diesel. The phrase being used for this ecology-friendly refining is: “eco-fine”.

Honeywell sources say the “scoping study” will take approximately 13 weeks, after which the company can begin customising the “Rapid Processing Technology” plant for Punjab’s peculiar rice stubble.

This initiative brings together two imperatives of the Indian government.In August 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for the country to save $1.7 billion a year on imported hydrocarbon fuel, by blending green biofuels with standard ethanol.

Separately, the Union Cabinet and Delhi government are grappling with the problem of Delhi’s toxic air, caused by rice stubble burning, which has not improved despite measures like taking vehicles off the road through an “odd-even” scheme that allows them to ply only on alternate days. Converting rice stubble into bio-diesel is seen as converting a problem into an opportunity.

Organisations like the Indian Air Force (IAF), whose aircraftconsume 100 crore litres of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) per year are seeing an opportunity in green bio-fuel. If it can achieve its goal to substitute 10 per cent of its ATF with bio-fuels, it would save 10 crore litres of ATF each year.

While only bio-fuel made from Jatropha has currently been certified for aircraft, there is potential to source it from 150 million tonnes of surplus bio-mass feedstock across India, including from non-edible plants like Castor Pongamia, Neem, Mahua, Sal and Kokum. Now rice stubble presents an inviting new option.

1 comment:

  1. NSR says ---

    I hope that India invests massively to convert the stubble into biofuel quickly...
    In the meantime, India must supply powerful tractors to till the land immediately and let the stubble go into the ground creating fertilizer for next crops...
    Supplying tractors is a lot cheaper option immediately... Billions of Rupees are stolen from banks by crooks... assisting poor farmer will help India in long run...

    Jatropa is a big cash crop in Brazil... I hope India invests heavily in it in semi arid areas to get itself Moksham from the oil slavery...


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