Bamboo booster: Assam refinery bets big on bioethanol

The Numaligarh Refinery has identified 25 bamboo chipping units for supplying to its upcoming biorefinery

The Numaligarh Refinery has identified 25 bamboo chipping units for supplying to its upcoming biorefinery

GUWAHATI

The fuel in your vehicle could soon have some bamboo in it.

The public sector Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) in eastern Assam’s Golaghat district has taken major strides in setting up a ₹1,750-crore biorefinery unit for producing bioethanol from 5-lakh metric tonnes of bamboo per annum.

The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) holds about 70% share of the refinery in which the Assam government is a stakeholder.

The biorefinery is a part of NRL’s major integrated expansion project to treble its capacity from the current 3 million metric tonnes per annum to 9 MMTPA entailing an investment of more than ₹28,000-crore. The project includes setting up of a crude oil import terminal at the Paradip Port in Odisha.

The eight northeastern States grow more than 65% of the country’s bamboo, but NRL would initially source the raw material from areas within a 300 km radius of the refinery.

“The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers says the vehicles in the country can run smoothly on fossil fuel blended with 10% ethanol, which is being done. Our objective is to utilise the vast bamboo resource in the Northeast supplied by a network of bamboo chipping units,” NRL chairman and IOC chairman-managing director Ranjit Rath said.

NRL has been blending 10% ethanol in petrol at its Siliguri (West Bengal) and Numaligarh marketing terminals.

It has identified 25 local-level entrepreneurs who would set up bamboo chipping units close to the sources of the “golden grass”. These units would supply chipped or bone-dry bamboo for the refinery to produce 49 metric tonnes of ethanol, 11 MT of acetic acid, 19 MT of furfural (used in making inks, plastics, antacids, adhesives, fungicides, fertilisers, etc.) and other associated products.


“Our objective is to utilise the vast bamboo resource in the Northeast supplied by a network of bamboo chipping units”Ranjit RathNRL chairman and IOC chairman-managing director

The bioethanol project would also have a captive power plant to produce 20 MW of electricity using bamboo residue as the feed.

According to Bhaskar Jyoti Phukan, NRL’s managing director, the bioethanol project would be handled by the Assam Biorefinery Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture between NRL and two Finnish companies – Fortum and Chempolis Oy.

“We are preparing for the transition from fossil fuel to new and renewable energy toward becoming a carbon-neutral country. Our investments are planned to meet the energy needs of society while maintaining a sustainable business,” Mr. Rath said after NRL’s 29 th annual general meeting on Monday.

The company declared a dividend of 150% – ₹15 per fully paid equity share of ₹10 each – for the 2021-22 fiscal, riding on a sales turnover of ₹23,546-crore, which was 26.95% more than the previous fiscal.

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