Indian Government to Setup 5000 Compressed Biogas Plants in Next Five Years

Indian Govt to Setup 5000 Compressed Biogas Plants in Next Five Years (Photo: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images).
Indian Govt to Setup 5000 Compressed Biogas Plants in Next Five Years (Photo: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images).

Indian government is keen to set up 5000 compressed biogas (CBG) plants in the next five years, and for this purpose, production offtake guarantee is being given for such plants, said India’s petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Monday (1) launching an innovative initiative, SATAT in New Delhi, with PSU Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) inviting Expression of Interest (EoI) from potential entrepreneurs to set up CNG production plants and make available CBG in the market for use in automotive fuels.

Speaking on the occasion, the petroleum minister added that the Swachhta (cleanliness drive) fortnight is being observed throughout the country, and this is a significant move in this direction. He said that the gas is clean and cheaper mode of fuel and the government has taken several steps to promote its production and usage.

There will be no restriction on the technology choice and government is incurring £7.86 billion capital expenditure for setting up the infrastructure for City Gas distribution network. Besides the potential to boost availability of more affordable transport fuels, better use of agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste, the CBG plants will provide an additional revenue source to farmers, and 75,000 direct job opportunities and hundred thousands of indirect jobs.

He said that not only OMCs but other gas distribution companies and concerned departments should also take part in it.

The minister said that currently 4.2 million households are getting PNG supply, and there is a commitment to cover 20 million households in 300 districts by the suppliers after the implementation of the 9th round of CGD bids.

Titled SATAT, the initiative is aimed at providing a Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation as a developmental effort that would benefit both vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs.

This initiative holds great promise for efficient municipal solid waste management and in tackling the problem of polluted urban air due to farm stubble-burning and carbon emissions. Use of CBG will also help bring down dependency on crude oil imports and in realising the Indian prime minister’s vision of enhancing farmers’ income, rural employment and entrepreneurship.

Biogas is produced naturally through a process of anaerobic decomposition from waste, bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plant waste, and others.

After purification, it is compressed and called CBG, which has pure methane content of over 95 per cent. CBG is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential. With calorific value (52,000 KJ/kg) and other properties similar to CNG, CBG can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive fuel. Given the abundance of biomass in the country, CBG has the potential to replace CNG in automotive, industrial and commercial uses in the coming years.

The potential for CBG from various sources in India is estimated at about 62 million tonnes per annum. CBG plants are proposed to be set up mainly through independent entrepreneurs. CBG produced at these plants will be transported through cascades of cylinders to the fuel station networks of OMCs for marketing as a green transport fuel alternative.

The 1,500-strong CNG stations network in the country currently serves about 3.2 million gas-based vehicles. The working group on biofuels, set up under the National Policy on Biofuels 2018, is in the process of finalising a pan-India pricing model for CBG.

The entrepreneurs would be able to separately market the other by-products from these plants, including bio-manure, carbon-dioxide, and others to enhance returns on investment.

Going forward, CBG networks can be integrated with city gas distribution (CGD) networks to boost supplies to domestic and retail users in existing and upcoming markets. Besides retailing from OMC fuel stations, CBG can at a later date be injected into CGD pipelines too for efficient distribution and optimised access of a cleaner and more affordable fuel.