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Old sherbet in New Bottle

PIB Delhi on 18.3.23 posted a release that NTPC and Chempolis India are to collaborate on Feasibility Study for setting Bamboo-based Bio-Refinery at Bongaigaon, Assam.
The project is essentially to support NTPC’s decarbonization efforts, create job opportunities and promote the use of locally available resources.

NTPC, the largest power-generating utility in India, and Chempolis India, a Fortum group associate company and a leading Finnish bio-refining technology provider, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the feasibility of setting up a Bamboo-based Bio-Refinery in Bongaigaon. Chempolis will work with NTPC to conduct the feasibility study for the project which shall utilize bamboo for the production of 2G Ethanol, Bio-Coal for thermal power plants & other value-added products. The MoU was signed in presence of NTPC Director-HR Mr Dilip Kumar Patel, EIL Director-HR Mr Ashok Kumar Kalra & Chempolis President & CEO Mr Markus Alholm last week.

The proposed Bio-Refinery is planned as an integration project with NTPC Bongaigaon Power Plant, where all utility requirements such as steam, power, etc., shall be supplied from the power plant and the Bio-Coal produced by the Bio-Refinery shall partly replace coal in the power plant, effectively converting 5% of the generation of the power plant to green. The project will support NTPC’s decarbonization efforts, create job opportunities and build a sustainable model by promoting the use of locally available resources. M/s EIL is the Project Consultant for NTPC for the preparation of the Detailed Project Report.

This is a piece of good and welcome news. It’s admirable that an effort towards environment conservation and sustainability is being initiated by NTPC and EIL. The Power Ministry is also to be lauded for proving the relevant direction and support.

Of course, some irking issues remain and we wish to also highlight those to our readers. It was in Sept. – Oct. 2022 that Numaligarh Refinery inaugurated efforts towards Bamboo Refinery which is an euphamistic term given to bio dozing of fossil fuels with alcohol derived from dried Bamboo. Well then, the Power Ministry’s move is not in some sort of virgin area or nothing brilliantly new. The technology already exists. So EIL would essentially be reinventing the wheel or piggy riding of some sort. What is more crucial is investing in readily availability of raw material which in this case is Bamboo, EIL is not known for agricultural innovations, there are other institutions which need to get involved. In earlier forays with Bio Fuels, the barrier has been the availability of raw material for manufacturing alcohol. Sugarcane, Kitchen/Food Waste, Jatropha all have had very limited success. The economics of Alcohol production just do not add up for it’s readily availability for dozing in fossil fuels and existing refineries are struggling to meet the targets. It will remain to be seen whether the latest wishful thinking of Power Ministry will make any difference in the already log jammed biofuel industry.

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