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Biomass briquette makers in India plead for state hand to expand

According to reports, biomass briquette makers is a sector which can be a way forward in the search for an alternative to coal, in a clean energy-craving India.

However, its producers are crying for more support from the government.

White coal or bio-coal or bio-mass briquettes are made from the conversion of agricultural waste. These are turned into high-density and energy-concentrated solid fuel briquettes.

According to estimates by the All Gujarat Biomass Briquette Association (AGBBA), there are at least 500 briquette manufacturers across the country, giving direct and indirect employment to 100,000 people. About 200 of these are in Gujarat; the other major producers are in Maharashtra and Rajasthan, along with other northern states.

“The problem is that there are a lot of manufacturers with just one or two machines and, hence, the sector is unorganised. The authorities should find a platform to unite us and also find a solution to the scarcity of raw materials, as many producers are leaving the sector,” said Jitu Patel, president of AGBBA and owner of Anand Fuel, a bio-coal manufacturer.

They also claim it can be used as an alternative for coal. “ It is easily transportable and leaves low ash. The high density and higher-fix carbon value makes it more inflammable and it is 100 per cent natural,” said Shankar Lal Mittal of Hadoti Bio Tech. The raw materials used to manufacture bio-coal include mustard, soya stalk, sawdust, ground nut shells, cotton waste, rice husk and bagasse.

The main consumers of bio-coal are the chemical, textile, ceramic and cement industry, along with its use in bio-fuel power plants. “The government should make some arrangement to collect agricultural waste on a large scale, so that it would be helpful for us and also for farmers,” said Raxesh K Chhatbur, owner of Ramit BioCoal. AGBBA also wants the government to make it compulsory for all those buying above 100 tonnes of coal to use at least five per cent white coal. It is also demanding tax sops from regional governments, as the fuel is pollution-free.

“Considering the growing crisis and the price of fossil fuels, our product is less expensive, too. It costs around Rs 3,000-4,000 per tonne, while normal coal is much more. Based on grades, it goes up even six times,” Patel said. Compared to fossil fuels, briquettes produce low net total greenhouse gas emissions. It is believed that carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by partially replacing the coal used in power plants with white coal, which is already a part of the carbon cycle.

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