State-run oil marketing Maharatna company Indian Oil plans to enter into lingo-cellulostic ethanol production in a big way. It would be a major initiative of the company under its sustainable development programmes.
There is a great need of alternative fuels driven by fluctuating crude prices, energy security, and environmental benefits. The National Policy of Bio-fuels in 2009, had proposed an indicative target of 20 percent blending of Biofuels by 2017. To avoid the food versus fuel issues, bio-ethanol can be produced from ligno-cellulose obtained from non-food crops such as surplus agri-residue, wood, organic waste etc, thereby eliminating requirement of food crop diversion. It has also been observed that Cellulosic ethanol reduces carbon emissions by 85 percent to 94 percent compared to petroleumbased fuels.
Ethanol-blending and bio-fuel plantations are two new experiments being carried on by the company to reduce carbon emissions. Blending of ethanol with petrol reduces carbon monoxide levels and carbon emissions and also brings down petroleum import bill. Ethanol has a emission factor of 1.88 kgCO2e/ kg compared to 3.09 kgCO2e/kg for petrol. During 2014-15, 187 tkl of ethanol was procured by IndianOil for blending, which is about 1.7 percent of the total sales.
Plantation of Jatropha was completed in about 8,000 Ha in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh. Two joint ventures were formed for the purpose, namely, IndianOil-CREDA Bio-fuels Ltd. in Chattisgarh and IndianOil Ruchi Bio-fuels LLP in Uttar Pradesh. However, due to high maintenance cost and low seed yield from Jatropha, bio-fuel production was non-starter.
As a part of the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan, IndianOil is putting up an integrated waste to fuel plant at Varanasi to convert the municipal solid waste to fuel. Senior officials of the company said that conversion of waste to fuel is a method to achieve zero-waste and produce renewable fuels, while caring for the environment. This has the dual benefit of proper disposal of waste as well as end use of waste to produce energy in form of methane and fuels. It also avoids the negative effects of waste incineration.
The company’s R&D Centre at Faridabad is working on many innovative low carbon technologies. A single step process has been developed and patented to convert CO to dialkyl- 2 carbonates using novel catalyst for application as fuel additives as well as solvent in paint industry. Research is also underway on Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell stacks, pet-coke integrated gasification plant, solar grade heat transfer fluids, enzymes and microalgae in bio-energy etc.
Solar power is yet another sustainable development initiative. A grid connected solar PV project of 5 MW was commissioned at Rawra, Rajasthan in 2012. As of 31st August, 2015, the cumulative generation from the project has crossed 27 GWh of renewable electricity, resulting in carbon emission reduction of 22 TMTCO2e. Further, a 4-MW solar PV plant is also under commissioning at Narimanam, Tamil Nadu which will supply green power to twelve captive locations in the State.