Big guns enter compressed biogas arena, Energy News, ET EnergyWorld

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New Delhi: The compressed biogas industry is at a critical juncture in its evolution, and the entry of major players into this burgeoning sector has the potential to inject a new wave of energy and innovation. As the world grapples with the pressing issues of climate change and sustainable energy sources, compressed biogas, often referred to as CBG, has emerged as a promising solution that aligns with the global shift towards greener alternatives.

With giants of the energy and environmental sectors showing increasing interest and investment in CBG, the stage is set for a transformation that could reshape the future of clean energy production and significantly accelerate the transition to a more sustainable world.

In the recent announcement, Adani TotalEnergies said that it is planning to set up five CBG units across India, while Reliance Industries has said it would set up 100 CBG plants in the next five years. These plants would consume 5.5 million tonne of agri-residue and organic waste.

With their entry, industry executives across the biogas value chain are hoping for a streamlined supply chain of feedstock, better finance, and higher offtake.

India’s biogas drive – A sustainable energy paradigm shift

Promoting biogas is one of the most sustainable ways to gradually decrease the use of fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions through efficient scientific waste management, and lower the financial burden of fossil fuel imports on the government, thereby saving precious foreign exchange. The recently announced Ministry of New & Renewable Energy subsidy under the National Bio Energy Programme not only supports the larger biogas plants but also the smaller ones. The subsidy can support the Biogas ecosystem’s goal of reducing fossil fuel utilization in a centralized and decentralized fashion.

For instance, consider a typical 12,000 cubic meter biogas plant, requiring a daily input feedstock ranging from 50 to 250 tons. This feedstock, a blend of indigenous resources like animal manure (such as cow dung and poultry litter), crop residues like paddy straw, and other locally available materials, forms the lifeblood of the operation. The choice of feedstock mix hinges on factors like availability, affordability, establishment of an efficient supply chain, digestor technology, and ambient temperature. At full capacity, such a plant can churn out a staggering 5 metric tons of Bio-CNG, 25-30 metric tons of Fermented Organic Manure, and approximately 250 cubic meters of Fermented Liquid Manure daily.But the benefits don’t stop there. A medium-sized biogas bottling plant, with a daily capacity of 100 cubic meters, can produce a remarkable 8 cylinders containing 6 kilograms of clean energy each day. Over the course of a year, this translates to an energy equivalent of 17,520 liters of gasoline or diesel. The green energy generated has a multitude of applications, from electricity generation to cooking, heating, and even serving as a clean vehicular fuel source.

India’s biogas revolution is not just a vision; it’s a sustainable reality that promises to reduce our carbon footprint, enhance energy security, and drive economic growth in the years to come.

Present scenario

Five years since its launch, India’s “Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation” (SATAT) scheme appears to be falling short in its ambitious plan of setting up 5,000 biogas plants by 2025. Until now, a mere 46 biogas plants have been commissioned out of the 4,090 Letters of Intent (LoIs) initially issued.

State-run oil and gas companies recently withdrew 87 LoIs due to “non-serious candidates,” as recommended by a parliamentary panel. The panel criticised the issuance of multiple LoIs to a single entrepreneur as a deceptive practice, suggesting SATAT’s progress is being overstated.

Gaurav Kedia, Chairman of the Indian Biogas Association, said in an interview with ETEnergyworld that setting up 5,000 biogas plants could span eight years and require an investment close to Rs 1,75,000 crores. However, despite the challenges, Kedia remains optimistic that nearly 100 large-scale plants will be operational this year.

Lessons for India

There are many lessons that India can learn from its own biogas journey, such as its efforts on Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) in 2018, which did not have much impact.

A notable lesson from India’s journey is the significance of prioritizing system-building over mere capital injection. For instance, the introduction of feed-in tariffs as incentives for biogas adoption is an area ripe for exploration. Presently, Central Financial Assistance for biogas projects is constrained, underscoring the potential role of the government as a system builder. This could involve advocating for the mandatory adoption of Compressed Biogas (CBG) by oil and gas marketing companies or championing the compulsory separation of municipal waste at its source to bolster biogas production.

Furthermore, as India aims to expand its utilization of biofuels and biogas, vigilance is essential to prevent adverse effects on land use and food security. Ensuring that energy crop cultivation does not encroach upon land necessary for food crops is paramount. Rigorous environmental safeguards must also be established to mitigate any harm to the environment during this expansion.

In nutshell, India can derive vital insights from its own biogas journey, guiding its approach towards sustainable transportation and biofuel utilization, with a focus on system-building, safeguarding food security, and environmental protection.

The road ahead

As India looks to boost its biogas capacity under the National Bioenergy Programme by allowing the injection of compressed biogas in the gas grid and launching a unified portal for biogas registration, it needs to encourage the right end-use by pushing for the mandatory uptake of compressed biogas by oil and gas marketing companies or mandatory segregation of municipal waste at source.

Furthermore, it needs to learn from global success stories and adapt them to local needs. Learning from and incorporating global best practices to build a strong policy foundation will help the sector flourish and quickly overcome teething problems that a sunrise industry typically faces.

  • Published On Sep 19, 2023 at 04:55 PM IST

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