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Commercial tests on bio-CNG from sugarcane waste on cards

According to reports, the Union ministry for road transport and highways is considering a proposal seeking permission to conduct tests on commercial vehicles running on bio-compressed natural gas (CNG) obtained from sugarcane press-mud, the residue of the filtration of sugarcane juice.

A plant at Warnnagar, near the Warna cooperative sugar factory in Kolhapur, has produced bio-CNG from press-mud, which has a chemical composition equivalent to CNG produced from Bombay High or river basins and has similar efficiency.

The Union ministry for new and renewable energy (MNRE) has asked Hyderabad-based Spectrum Renewable Energy Private Ltd to conduct more tests of bio-CNG on trucks. So far, bio-CNG is not recognized as a fuel by road transport and highways ministry. The Spectrum Renewable and the Warna Group have sent the proposal to the ministry seeking permission to conduct tests of bio-CNG on commercial vehicles at large scale.

Speaking to TOI, after a lecture series at  Agharkar Research Institute, A Anil Dhussa, director of MNRE, said, “The ARI has helped the ministry in extracting methane from biogas and further converting biogas into CNG, which is used as fuel in New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune. The ministry has asked Warna Group and Spectrum to get proper permissions and launch the project. The ministry has asked to conduct necessary tests to find out production and conversion cost, fuel efficiency and money saved if vehicles run on bio-CNG than conventional fuel like petrol and diesel. The primary report is positive and the project would be ready for bulk production by April this year.”

The Union government will fund and promote such projects if they are economically viable, Dhussa said.

Dilip Ranade, director of Agharkar Research Institute, said, “Compared to CNG, methane content in biogas is around 54 to 60% while remaining gases are carbon dioxide and hydrogen disulphide. Once these two gases are reduced, the methane content goes up and we get CNG, where methane share is 93 to 95%. The source of methane is different; hence it is called bio-CNG.”

In a telephonic interview,  Mohan Rao, chairman and chief executive officer of Spectrum Renewable told TOI, “The total investment in the project is Rs 30 crore, of which 30% is the cost of German technology and machinery which was imported. The company had to make it suitable for India as  Germany does not have sugar mills to produce biogas. Press-mud from Warna group will be processed and bio-CNG would be produced. It will be used by Warna group only for running vehicles.”

As per the current production figures, 9,200 kg of bio-CNG can be recovered from 12,000 cubic meter of biogas. Once, we get a nod from the Union ministry, production will be ramped up, he added.

The Warna Group of Kolhapur has a sugar factory besides milk and milk product-based business.

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