Dr. Ravindra Utgikar

Dr. Ravindra Utgikar- VP – Corporate Strategy & Marketing, Praj Industries shares insights into the future of bioenergy, biochemicals and biomaterials at the Pro MFG Think Turf: Sustainable Manufacturing Webinar Series powered by BiofuelCircle. Praj Industries is one of India’s foremost biotechnology companies, with a global presence. Its founder, Dr. Pramod Chaudhari recently received the globally acclaimed George Washington Carver Award 2020 for his path breaking work ..

Putting sustainability in context

The very definition of sustainability certainly needs streamlining. Sustainability is not some standalone, once-in-quarter initiative.

Instead, this is how sustainability needs to be defined: Sustainability is the ability to exist constantly. It focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising on the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It calls for a cohesiveness of the economy, the environment and society. They must converge, be valued equally and none must be compromised at the cost of the other.

Sustainable manufacturing

This cannot be highlighted enough: Mindfulness is the need of the hour. If manufacturers just stopped to observe their carbon footprint and gave it due consideration, they would find that minimising their carbon footprint is actually not as challenging as it is sometimes made out to be.

Manufacturers can consider a simple approach as follows:

Step 1: Detailed analysis of where energy is consumed and how it is being used. What are the energy guzzlers in your manufacturing set up?

Step 2: Real time examination and auditing of resource allocation, utilisation, location and rationale. Most of you already hold audits once every quarter or once in a year. Have real time audits, one of the primary steps towards gathering data on your energy consumption.

It is possible that the rationale that initially called for this mode of operation, needs an update. Consider the use of technology and data analytic in identifying where the problem areas are.

Previously (and many people still use this approach), analysis and fixing was done after processes were completed, but today it is imperative that we make analysis an ongoing process.

Step 3: Energy consumption is not the only obstacle to sustainability. Manufacturers also need to consider waste generation. Assessment of root causes of waste so as to create alternative processes that eliminate the creation of waste

The background of biofuel - summarised and contextualised for manufacturers

Companies like BiofuelCircle are doing pioneering work in making biofuel easily accessible and in ensuring sustained supply because this is extremely crucial to the sustenance of bioenergy plants, bio refineries, bio chemical plants.

Depending on your business you need either sugary, starchy, lignocellulosic or industrial waste as the feedstock for your biofuel. Sugary feedstock gives you liquid ethanol, starchy feedstock gives you ethanol, lignocellulosic feedstock gives you ethanol in its gaseous form and industrial waste and its counterparts will give you CBG. Certain chemical and biological technological processes take it from feedstock to fuel. The feedstock goes through certain processes and then either biofuel is produced or bio materials and chemicals are produced. The process differs depending on what the end product is intended to be.

The bigger picture - what the biofuel movement can do for India

The great thing about using agricultural waste for the generation of fuel is that the farmer gets a supplementary “job profile” and better still, he gets a supplementary stream of income. This is consistent with the government’s goal of doubling the income of farmers.

India has to import crude oil and other non-renewable fuels from other countries at huge costs. This inhibits our ability to progress economically because of tremendous costs, which affect cash flow and create current account deficits. By migrating to biofuels we save forex, we eliminate the smog issue that arises in the north of India from farmers burning agricultural waste (because it will be put to good use), encourage rural entrepreneurship and boost the rural economy (as discussed above), all while also doing our bit for the planet.

Incidentally, the movement towards biofuel also ushers in energy self-sufficiency, which bodes well for any nation.

Today, manufacturers have many goals when it comes to making their equipment more energy efficient. Some manufacturers have already been mindful and have incentivised the areas of energy wastage. Bio chemicals and bio materials can help bridge the gap here. Let me give you four examples
For example, you can improve sweating of assets by process efficiency and co production maximisation. In the end you will have productivity improvement.
You can also achieve reduction at source by advanced water recycling/reutilisation technology. In the end you will be able to save tremendous volumes of water.
You can achieve recycling by integration when you use advanced separation and concentration technology. This will activate energy savings.
Zero liquid discharge can be managed by using advanced stillage treatment technology. As a result the discharged liquid can be recovered and reused thereby reducing your water consumption footprint.

The twin pillars of the bioeconomy

Bio-Mobility™ - biological feedstock creates low-carbon fuel for all types of vehicles. Some of these biofuels already exist and are already in use while others such as sustainable aviation fuel, biohydrogen and bio marine fuels are all in the pipeline. In fact SAF is just around the corner and biohydrogen is seeing tremendous investment at this point. Plants which previously used natural gas in India are now migrating to renewable natural gas, all of which can be manufactured within the country’s borders.

Bio chemicals and Bio materials - bio plastics, resins, paint and coatings, pesticides and fertilizers all come under renewable chemicals and materials and can all be produced from the feedstock that we talked about earlier. India is well-positioned to become a global production hub for such materials because of low CAPEX and OPEX. Bio chemicals are the next big thing after biofuel.

Conclusion: Manufacturers have the ability to make a difference by upgrading their knowledge of how feedstock and biofuel work and by being mindful of resource allocation, utilisation and wastage. There are always solutions to issues of wastage, as long as you pay careful attention identify them.