Praj Industries Ltd, India’s multinational process and project company, in collaboration with the Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI), is developing a binder that will help blend ethanol with diesel, the company’s top official has said.
“This project (binder) is in the testing phase and once the results are out, we will approach the government for new fuel notification and policy interventions as needed,” said Shishir Joshipura, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director (CEO & MD), Praj Industries.
Currently, ethanol is being blended only with petrol and the Centre has set up a target of achieving 20 per cent ethanol blending by 2025.
Developing a binder that can help in blending ethanol with diesel will be a game-changer. This is because diesel consumption at 88.2 billion litres in 2020 was more than double the consumption of petrol (37.2 billion litres).
“Diesel does not blend that easily as petrol with ethanol. That’s why we are developing the binder,” the Praj Industries CEO & MD said.
The country had achieved 8 per cent blending last season (December 2020-November 2021) and going by the firm’s order books, the 20 per cent ethanol blending target will be achieved in 2025.
“The ethanol blending programme is progressing very well. The government has set up an ambitious but achievable target. We will get to the target — give or take 5-6 months — since the environment is encouraging and the industry is responding. It was 5-5.5 per cent when the ethanol programme was launched in 2018-19,” Joshipura said.
Praj Industries has commercialised an innovative technology to convert cellulosic feedstock, which is basically crop residues and remnants on the field after the crop is harvested, into ethanol. “We are setting up three commercial-scale second-generation ethanol projects for oil marketing companies such as IOCL, HPCL and BPCL. The first plant is expected to be commissioned later this year,” he said.
These cellulosic feedstocks, like in the case of paddy, are burnt on the field, leading to air pollution. Similarly, corn leaves and stalks are also left on the field as wastes.
“We now have the technology which is very new to convert these into ethanol. The cellulosic feedstock will help create the capacity needed for the country,” the Praj Industries Ltd CEO & MD said.
Joshipura said his firm has set up Europe’s largest ethanol plant in the UK which uses wheat as the feedstock. The plant has been set up using indigenous technology.
Stating that demand for the technology is high across the globe, he said Praj Industries has set up several plants abroad. “Till date, we have set up 200 ethanol plants based on starchy feedstock such as wheat and corn,” the Praj Industries official said, adding it was looking to bring such technology to India.
The Pune-based firm is also setting up two plants that can use wastes (effulents from sugar mills and agricultural waste) to convert them into compressed bio gas.
“We need multi feedstocks. We need multiple technologies too. Renewable natural gas is as good as compressed natural gas and more efficient in vehicles,” he said.
Sustainable jet fuel
Praj Industries has also developed technology to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for jets. “This will produce SAF identical to aviation turbine fuel with molecule-to-molecule substitution. Two years down the line, we could also see similar development for an alternative to marine fuel, which is polluting the sea,” Joshipura said.
The company has developed a technology to produce lignosulphonate — which binds cement, water and stone in construction — from bioresources. Also, it has developed bio bitumen that can be used as a binder in road construction.
Another significant technological break through made by Praj Industries is developing Bio-Syrup, a technology that can help store sugarcane juice for one year. “The juice can be stored without any loss of sugar or contamination. This technology will go a big way in helping sugar companies since sugarcane is crushed only 5-7 months in a year and companies have to idle without feedstock,” he said.
“One of the issues in making ethanol from cane is that it leads to the problem of effluent. To produce one litre of ethanol, companies let out 10-12 litres of effluent. Bio-Syrup can cut the effluent to 2-3 litres,” Joshipura said.
Referring to the Centre’s Biofuel policy, the Praj Industries CEO & MD said until 2018-19 ethanol could only be produced from molasses C, which is the by-product after sugar is almost fully retained from the juice.
“It restricted production as only Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka, which made up 85-90 per cent of sugarcane and sugar production, could produce ethanol,” Joshipura said.
The new biofuel policy allows the production of ethanol from sugarcane juice and molasses B, which has some sugar content left in it, as well. This has helped in getting feedstock on the sugar side for the ethanol plants.
The Centre’s decision to allow the production of ethanol from grains waste, particularly permitting the purchase of degraded grains from the Food Corporation of India, has led to a lot of capacity coming up to produce ethanol from grains waste, he said.
“Such plants are coming up in States such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Assam, Rajasthan and Gujarat which do not have excess sugarcane to produce ethanol,” he said.