The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT)-developed organic waste-to-biogas system is witnessing significant interest from various quarters. Developed by the IICT Bioengineering & Environmental Sciences (BEES) division here, the one-tonne capacity organic waste anaerobic gas lift reactor (AGR), has been licensed to Hyderabad-based Ahuja Engineering Services, which has installed the first plant at social foundation Akshaya Patra's Bellary kitchen that serves around 150,000 meals every day. The IICT-patented green technology is capable of generating 120-150 cubic metres of biogas (equivalent to around 30 kg of LPG) by using vegetable and food waste as the feedstock. Good quantities of organic manure is also generated during the process. Akshaya Patra Foundation operates 22 centralised kitchens across the country that see tonnes of organic waste being generated every day. The foundation is a key player in India's mid-day meal scheme, which is one of the largest school lunch programmes in the world. Government data showed around 104 million children were covered in 1.15 million schools during 2013-14. Akshaya Patra chief operations officer R Madan said with the financial support of the Tata Trust, they would progressively adopt similar technologies across all of its kitchens.
He said they were going to opt for a repeat order to the supplier for delivering 1.5-tonne organic waste-to-biogas unit for its Ahmedabad kitchen, and were also considering it for its Dharwad operations. “We planned to serve 5 million meals in the country in the future with the active support of state governments. To sustain such large operations, we are looking for green technologies that could help us replace LPG as fuel,” he said. Currently, Akshaya Patra is providing 1.5 million meals to the government’s mid-day meal scheme for school children. He said plans were afoot on adopting green technologies for its upcoming world's largest kitchen, in Varanasi, besides other large kitchens in Uttarakhand and other northern states. Ahuja Engineering Services director and business head for renewable energy Shruti Ahuja said they would complete the installation of the second plant with a higher capacity at the foundation’s kitchen in Ahmedabad this year. “We are very likely that the similar system or its higher configuration could be considered for its other kitchens spread across the country,” she said. The company is actively working on scaling the licensed technology to higher capacities, starting with 1.5-2 tonne, and take it even higher to 5-10 tonne in the future. On the potential demand for such systems in the country, she said the investment in waste management systems had been witnessing greater attention, with significant interest from large government campuses, special economic zones and other utilities in the country. The key takeaway, she said, was the early return on investment of up to two years, adding they were hopeful of installing 10-15 such systems in the current financial year. IICT-BEES chief scientist YV Swamy said the country’s largest temple board, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), had evinced interest for acquiring 1.5-2 tonne capacity waste management system at Tirupati. With huge demand for waste-to-energy systems, Swamy said scientists at the bio-engineering department were currently working on creating two-five tonne capacity systems, which are equipped to provide greater quantities of biogas and organic manure. He said the New Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh (Nedcap) was considering installing five-tonne capacity AGR systems across 20 municipalities in the state. Nedcap is authorised by the AP government to sanction municipal solid waste/industrial waste-based power projects having up to 20-Mw capacity. According to Nedcap, each biogas plant of one cubic metre capacity saves about 1,266 kg of firewood or 222 litre of kerosene or 12 cylinders (174 kgs) of LPG every year.