Biomass: Turning a challenge into an opportunity.
At a recent press conference, Upendra Tripathy, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) expressed that biomass is a stressed sector and this is the reason why the government is expanding its biomass portfolio into ethanol, derived from agri-residue. The ethanol produced will be used for fuel blending, which is the need of the hour, across the country. He also mentioned that the government is allocating Rs 2,000 million for setting up a fund that will help the stressed projects, and this will be handled by Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA).
The MNRE has set a target of generating 10 GW of installed power from biomass resources such as crop residues and agro-industrial wastes. According to recent reports, Punjab alone has the potential to generate 2 GW of energy from biomass resources. As per Anirudh Tewari, Principal Secretary for Industries, Commerce, and Renewable Energy in the Government of Punjab, biomass is an important part of the northern Indian state’s energy market. “We recently developed 150MW of projects on biomass but we have potential to generate about 2,000MW. That is the kind of biomass available,” he was quoted as saying. The states which are currently leading in terms of total megawatts of commissioned power and cogeneration projects include Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh.
In a recent push to the biomass sector in the country, the government has asked oil marketing companies (OMCs) to set up biomass-based ethanol projects. The government is said to be pushing for 10% ethanol blending with petrol, from the current 4%. In India, ethanol is currently made from molasses produced from sugarcane.
Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IndianOil), India’s flagship national oil company has selected Praj Industries Ltd., a Pune-based global process solutions provider, as its technology partner for setting up multiple 2nd generation (2G) bio-ethanol plants based on indigenously developed technology. IndianOil will be setting up three such 2G bio-ethanol plants. In fact, Praj is preparing to execute 2G ethanol projects over Rs 3,000 crore over a periods of 2-3 years. At the World Bio-fuels Day conference held in New Delhi recently, the Government of India had announced that a ‘biomass-based bio-fuels policy’ is in the offing to give boost to the agro-economy and to promote clean, renewable energy. This endeavour will be a socio-economic and environmental enabler as the farming community will be able to generate additional revenues from agri-waste, which will be utilised to produce bio-ethanol.
Industries such as sugar, paper and pulp, textiles, fertilizers, petroleum, petrochemicals and food processing, etc. require electrical as well as thermal energy for their operations. These requirements can either be met through different energy sources, or from a single source, which is capable of generating electricity as well as producing thermal energy. The simultaneous production of power and thermal energy from a single fuel source is termed as co-generation, and the power generated can be used for meeting the captive requirements. On the other hand, the surplus power produced can be exported to the grid. In view of the limited availability of fossil fuels, and given its adverse effects on the environmental, it is more than appropriate to use non-conventional energy sources including biomass resources for generation of energy.