A home- grown technology to convert agricultural refuse into a valuable bio fuel resource is developed by Indian scientists and industry . Adopted on a larger scale, the technique could slash India’s oil imports and also reduce pollution. It has the potential to tackle two monsters at one go – noxious fumes and oil imports.
A newly inaugurated plant in Uttarakhand demonstrates how agricultural waste can be converted into bio fuel. The technology is said to be superior to competing technologies. It is capable of converting any agricultural waste into ethyl alcohol, or bioethanol, which can be blended with petrol to be used in vehicles as fuel. India uses 70 million tonnes of transport fuel — petrol and diesel — every year.
Alcohol from sugar or molasses
1)Conflicts with food chain . 2) Total installed capacity only 2.5 billion litre . 3) Higher capacity will impact sugar market and encroach on fertile land for sugar production.
Alcohol from agriculture waste
1)Prevents pollution from burning . 2) Recycles, adds value to farm waste . 3)More than 300 million tonnes of farm waste available per year . 4) Can produce more than 100 billion litre alcohol.
Using agricultural waste as raw material will deter farmers from burning it away, as practised by most rice and wheat farmers in the Indo- Gangetic plains. Production of bio fuel, in turn, will not only help cut down the country’s oil imports, but also reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Farmers burn away most of the agriculture residues, leading to wastage of a valuable resource and also polluting the ambient air. The National Green Tribunal recently banned this burning.
It is also capable of using a wide range of agricultural residues from sugarcane bagasse, rice and wheat straw to cotton stalk, wood chips and bamboo, he says.
It is capable of recycling 90 per cent of enzymes and water used by the plant. Enzymes — speciality chemical compounds that help convert cellulose in these residues to sugars and subsequent- ly to ethanol — are costly and form a major part of the running expense. Therefore, their recycling brings down the operational cost significantly.
India has a total of 600 million tonnes of agricultural waste available annually. Of this, only 15 per cent is currently used for fodder and firewood.