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Indian Oil Corp Faridabad unit to pump in biofuel

According to reports, the  Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) Limited’s R&D facility in  Faridabad is going to unveil second generation bio-fuels in the next 3-4 years, as a result of a decade-long rigorous research work. Confirming the development, Dr RK Malhotra, director of the research facility said, “If the research and development work initiated for second and third generation bio-fuels succeeds, in next 3-4 years the pressure on supply of fossil fuels will go down by around 10 percent.” “We are also trying to generate bio-fuels from agricultural waste such as straws of wheat, maize, rice, cotton and sugarcane pulps. Moreover, research is also being conducted on generating bio-fuels through biotechnology using enzymes,” explained Dr DK Tuli, general manager (alternate energy), IOC.

Dr Tuli added that  bio-fuel produced so far have been completely categorised for various applications. Different blends of fuels can be applied in furnace oil. Preliminary study on feasibility of bio-oil as co-feed in vacuum resid oil in delayed coker unit have also been done.” He said that IOC’s success in the second generation bio-oil research was the result of past five years of extensive work and lessons learnt from the jatropha (first generation) failure. The government has allocated Rs 56 crore for the five year research work by IOC. Dr Malhotra gave credit to his entire team for turning the table in IOC’s favour. He said that rather than hiring full time experts, they hired experts for fixed period and paid them a little higher. Talking about his team Dr Tuli said, “We hired 10 PhD experts, five post doctors, retired professors and experts. This formula worked and we were able to attract good scholars to turn the odds in our favour.”

Dr Tuli stressed upon the requirement of experts in the field of enzyme research. “Due to dearth of enzyme experts, we are exchanging such experts from the  Institute of Chemical Technology and International Centre of Genetic Engineering of Biotechnology,” he said. He said that these two centres were also doing a good job, but IOC has an edge as it knows the scale of market and can commercialise its products. N Shivkumar, spokesperson of IOC’s Faridabad unit said, “Biomass pyrolysis is an attractive option for India as solid waste biomass can be easily converted into liquid products through decentralised units to avoid costly transportation.” “The liquid products thus produced can be transported to centralised units for storage, marketing as industrial fuel for power generation and further refining to vehicular grade fuel component,” said Mr Shivkumar.

American scientists, eager to get out of the soya oil lobby, are also keeping a track of these developments at IOC’s Faridabad campus. They have been sending their experts to interact with IOC expert panel. “In May 2012, the US government is going to set up a research and development unit at the IOC Faridabad campus for Rs 8.2 crore,” informed Dr Tuli. “This will be a major boost to our project,” he added. “The US government has also signed the  National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) agreement with the Indian government to promote exchange in research and development activities between the two countries,” informed Mr Shivkumar.

“A step towards second generation bio-fuels does not mean India is going to completely rely on it. Rather, it will boost the volume of oil as bio-fuels will be blended with conventional oil,” said Lucky Nurafiatin, manager, (Asia and Middle East), Hart Energy (a US-based publisher and consultant of energy resources). As a result, she added, we can expect further reduction of conventional fuel usage in the transportation sector. It is expected to help reduce import of refined petroleum products. “However, it is important to note that cellulosic ethanol supply is not expected to meet the national E10 target. Our findings indicate that India will still rely on sugarcane ethanol possibly up to 2020.

Similarly, with bio-diesel, its availability is already restricted by jatropha availability. Thus, renewable diesel will face feedstock availability issues unless other biomass products are used,” Ms Nurafiatin said.
“From the feedstock perspective, India has a significant surplus of crop residue (biomass) from sugarcane and oil seeds,” she said.

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