In a first of its kind move, Gautam Thapar promoted $4 billion Avantha Group has entered into partnership with a Finland based Chempolis Ltd to bring technology into India for extraction of ethanol from various agri residues including paddy plants and banana stems.
The agreement was signed by Avantha Group's research wing Avantha Centre for Industrial Research & Development (ACRID) to offer technology to India to extract ethanol from various agri residues for blending with petrol.
Under this new partnership agreement, ACRID will look for private investors to set up plants in major biomass growing states. To begin with, the ACRID is in talks with the Punjab government for converting paddy plants into ethanol along with other byproducts.
"We are in talks with the government of Punjab exploring possibilities of converting paddy plants into ethanol which has around 31-32% of recovery along with its byproducts. While ethanol recovery from paddy plants along stands at 24.5%, others include byproducts," said Rajeev Vederah, Chairman, ACRID.
Punjab produces around 25 million tonnes of paddy plants which has very less demand. Consequently, farmers burnt almost entire paddy plants in the field to get rid of this unwanted inventory. ACRID is also looking to set up similar facility in neighbouring states including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and other major paddy growing states.
With oil marketing companies (OMCs) lagging behind the mandatory government's ethanol blending target of 10%, the MoU for production of the green fuel from biomass assumes significance. Currently, OMCs are allowed to procure ethanol produced from molasses by sugar mills or independent distillery units.
Once, biomass based ethanol production starts, OMCs would be able to achieve not only 10% immediately but also 20% as fixed by the government for 2017, said Vederah.
Interestingly, the cost of ethanol production would be much lower from biomass as the raw material would entail almost "nil" cost. But, according to Vederah, instead of burning paddy plants and thereby, polluting environment, farmers would fetch some money by selling the same to biorefining companies.
India is a leading agricultural country producing large amounts of bagasse, cane trash, rice and wheat straw whose disposal is an environmental problem. The partnership will help deliver bio refining technology to India to convert various agri residues, such as bagasse, cane trash, rice and wheat straw, corn stems, grasses, bamboo to clean sugars to be further converted to cellulosic ethanol and other biobased chemicals.
"India is today facing many challenges like air pollution, tremendous import of petroleum, underdeveloped countryside etc. All these challenges can be turned into highly scalable sustainable, (economic, environment and social) businesses. Chempolis and ACRID partnership can help India to achieve its goals of reducing forex spending on importing of oil, production of more sustainable carbon neutral biofuels and chemicals while reaching ethanol blending targets and promoting sustainable and environment-friendly business models," said Pasi Rousu, President (Asia Pacific and Americas), Chempolis Ltd.
In October 2014, the Finish biorefining technology corporation Chempolis had signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with with Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL), a subsidiary of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd to jointly study to build a world class biorefinery in Assam for producing biofuel ethanol with co-production of furfural and acetic acid from locally available cellulosic biomass. Bamboo is one of the major non-food biomass resources available abundantly in north-east India and it is among the fastest growing plants. Works on this MoU is underway.