GUWAHATI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate India’s first bio-fuel refinery – Assam Bio-Refinery Private Limited – in the state on February 9.
The Prime Minister will digitally lay the foundation stone of the project on February 9 at a programme. Further, this will be the first-of-its-kind bio-refinery in the northeastern region which will be entirely powered by renewable source of energy.
Gunin Sarma, an official of Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) informed G Plus, “This bio refinery is different because we will be using technology from abroad – which is from Finland.”
He added that the refinery will primarily use bamboo biomass as the fixed stock in production of ethanol. The bio-fuel refinery will be bamboo based and it will also be the largest bio-fuel refinery in the country, said officials.
Talking about the capacity and the estimated output of the refinery, Sarma mentioned that they will be using 5 lakh metric tonne of raw bamboo, whereas their production will approximately be around 6 crore litres of ethanol every year.
Further, once ethanol is produced, Numaligarh Refinery Limited will be mainly blending the entire quantity of ethanol which is produced here with petrol and it will be used as a motor spirit.
Officials told G Plus that the project is expected to be completed by April 2021. Further, the company will source the required bamboo for the production of bio-fuel from all northeastern states – but mainly from Assam – and the nearest points from the neighbouring states including Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur.
To set up the refinery, a joint venture (JV) between state-run Numaligarh Refinery Limited and two foreign partners has been signed.
The joint venture, which would produce the eco-friendly bio-ethanol and other chemicals from bamboo biomass, has been created by NRL with equity participation of Chempolis Oy of Finland and Fortum 3 B.V. of Netherlands, NRL Managing Director, SK Barua, had earlier informed.
The joint venture by the three partners in which NRL will has an equity holding of 50 percent by NRL, 28 percent by Fortum 3 B.V. Netherlands and 22 percent by Chempolis Oy of Finland.
According to the official, bio-coal will be used for the production of steam and supplying clean power to the refinery.
The government’s Ethanol Blending Programme allows for blending of petrol by up to 10 percent with ethanol.
Its new bio-ethanol policy aims to spur investments in setting up projects with a total production capacity of 1 billion litres of ethanol every year.
The process of making ethanol from bamboo
Elaborating on the process by which ethanol will be made from bamboo in the bio refinery; an official at Numaligarh Refinery Limited said that it is a chemical process.
“The basic principle which the bamboo will undergo at the refinery is Enzymetic hydrolysis- in which some enzymes are introduced to help in the process of bio-fuel formation. After the introduction of enzymes, the bamboo biomass will be converted to cellulose,” informed officials.
Further, in the next step of the process, cellulose will be converted to glucose from where glucose will be fermented and finally ethanol will be produced as a result of the fermentation process.
The bio-fuel generation method is similar to the process used in sugar industries, said authorities.
Enzymatic hydrolysis is a process in which enzymes assist in the cleavage of bonds in molecules with the addition of the elements of water. Similarly, the process is also used to generate renewable sourced of energy such as cellulosic ethanol.
Authorities informed that some of the by-products of the methanol generation process in the refinery will include acetic acid and suphurine, which will later be converted to suphurine alcohol.
Further, one of the essential by-products of the bio-fuel production will be bio-coal. This will be generated from the remaining portion of bamboo and will be utilised by NRL in generating power for the refinery’s operation thus making the refinery unit entirely powered by renewable energy for its power requirement.