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India’s progress in Bio-fuels

Published: 9th Mar, 2023

Context

The Centre’s SATAT scheme for bio-CNG plants at the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has blamed the pandemic for the delays in meeting target of setting up 5,000 bio-CNG plants by 2023-24.

The Centre’s SATAT scheme for bio-CNG plants at the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has blamed the pandemic for the delays in meeting target of setting up 5,000 bio-CNG plants by 2023-24.

Sustainable Alternative towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT):

  • Under the SATAT scheme, individual entrepreneurs should put up the compressed bio-gas (CBG) plants. The CBG produced at these plants will be delivered through cylinder cascades to the network of OMC fuel stations for sale as an alternative green transport fuel.
  • To increase returns on investment, the business owners might market the additional by-products produced by these plants separately, such as carbon dioxide and bio-manure.
  • Goal: To manufacture compressed biogas (CBG) from trash and biomass sources such farm residue, cow dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste (MSW), and waste from sewage treatment plants, and to make CBG available on the market for use as a clean fuel.

About CBG:

  •  Bio-gas is naturally created by the anaerobic decomposition of waste and biomass sources such agricultural residue, bovine dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, and sewage treatment plant waste, among others.
  • After purification, it is compressed and called compressed bio-gas.  It contains more than 95% pure methane.
  •  When it comes to composition and energy potential, compressed bio-gas is a perfect match for natural gas that is sold in stores.
  • Compressed bio-gas is a renewable alternative to fossil fuels for use as an automotive fuel since it has a calorific value of about 52,000 KJ/kg and other characteristics similar to those of CNG.

Issues: 

The progress on the effective functioning of the scheme has been slow and tardy.  Up till now, 40 plants have been commissioned and 80 retail outlets are selling bio-CNG. This is primarily because of following reasons: 

    • Feedstock:  Feedstock is not present in adequate amount for smooth functioning of the plants.
      • Eg. Radius of feedstock collection and distribution of bio-CNG to 25 km which later increased to 150km due to lack of demand. 
  • Infrastructure: There is absence of enough infrastructures to collect the waste. Thus inadequate infrastructure is acting as the hurdle for the 
  • Technology: India does not have the state of the art technology which could efficiently produce CBG at the low cost. Cost efficient technology is very costly and is absent in the local market. 
  •  Absence of Market: CBG has does not have proper market in the transport sector. Till the time CBG does not have well established market in transport sector, distribution will remain a major challenge.
  • Distribution of the gas:

Government efforts:

  • Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has issued a circular to include bio-CNG in the “white category” (of non-polluting industries that do not require environmental clearances).
  • Government issues Specifications for the sale of organic fertilizers. Union Ministry of Fertilisers will issue clear specifications for both solid and liquid organic fertilisers.
  • Government plans to connect 400 cities with the CNG grid in five years, which will take care of the distribution.
  • Several state governments are already offering incentives like subsidised land and electricity for bio-CNG plants and feedstock assurance.
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