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Dr. Ravindra Utgikar

Today, as we celebrate World Biofuel Day, we must resolve to increase the usage of Biofuels. The role of biofuels is crucial from the perspective of sustainable development as well as economic growth, especially for a country like India which is heavily dependent on fossil fuel import.

Biofuel is no longer a hypothesis. It has become inevitable for developing countries like India who are dependent on others for fossil fuels, a requisite not only for the economy or energy certainty, but for agricultural development and social health. Today, as we celebrate World Biofuel Day, we should resolve to increase the usage of Biofuel. The role of biofuels is crucial from the perspective of sustainable development as well as economic growth, especially for a country like India which is heavily dependent on fossil fuel import. On the occasion of August 10th, the World Biofuel Day, here's an overview on the happy eco-friendly fuel transition.

Mobility is the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. Mobility solutions recognize that transportation products and services must be responsive to the needs, habits, and preferences of travellers and society.

Mobility solutions across all modes of transportation have evolved a great deal over centuries. While the 18th century belonged to steam engines, internal combustion engines continue to occupy centre stage ever since its emergence in the 19th century. However, especially since the beginning of this millennium, we are experiencing a steady transition towards cleaner greener modes of mobility. This article presents a fresh perspective on Bio-MobilityTM as a promising mobility solution.

India’s Energy Landscape

Today, India’s energy landscape is totally dominated by imported fossil fuels and we are the third largest fuel consumer after the United States of America and China. Thanks to growing GDP on the back of rapid industrialization and urbanization, we are projected to overtake China in the consumption of mineral oil. That would mean that in order to our fulfil energy requirements, our oil imports would jump from the current level of 80 % to 90%, adding on to huge foreign exchange outgo impacting the economy. With around two-third of the imports coming from the Gulf area, India’s skewed reliance on the region can be a matter of concern from an energy security point of view. It is also interesting to note that after industry, the mobility sector is the second largest consumer of energy and also CO2 emitter. While efficient methods of usage can ease the stress on resources, it certainly cannot slow down the rate of increase in demand for energy and rising emissions. This calls for reconfiguring energy-mix using captive renewable sources.

Automobile industry as the bellwether of economy

Automobile industry has been at the forefront of industrial revolutions by delivering power in a more efficient and economic manner. The ICE based transportation sector has been playing a pivotal role in India’s growth. By providing supply chain connectivity between production and consumption points and also as an export hub for MNCs, it has been contributing to the nation's GDP. The auto Industry is also one of the largest employment generating sectors and several other matrices stated have a story to tell. With well-oiled ecosystems across the value chain, the automobile industry is regarded as the bellwether of the industry. Considering its high standards for quality and processes, it serves as a benchmark for other industries.

Studies have revealed that as much as 23% of GHG emissions worldwide comes from transportation sectors. India prominently features in the list of top nations in this regard. Decarbonizing transportation is a dire need of the hour. Efforts should be made on war footing to harness renewable transportation fuels in the overall energy-mix of the sector to address environment related challenges.

Bio-MobilityTM Platform- Basket of Biofuel Technologies

Praj has pioneered the Bio-MobilityTM platform of biofuel technology solutions for all modes of transportation, namely, surface, air and marine, that helps minimize carbon footprints in the transportation sector.

Bio-MobilityTM platform envisages production of low carbon renewable transportation fuel produced from biological resources. These include sugary feedstock, e.g. molasses, starchy feedstock e.g. damaged grains, and cellulosic feedstock e.g. agri-waste wheat straw, rice straw etc.

Praj Matrix, a world-class innovation and R&D facility, has developed technologies to convert biomass to biofuels, both in liquid and gaseous forms, through biochemical and thermochemical processes.

Waste (i.e. agri residue) to wealth (i.e. biofuels) transformation theme encompasses inclusive growth especially that of the farming community. Being a renewable low carbon fuel, biofuels help combat evils of climate change and global warming.

Bio-MobilityTM platform of technologies for production of biofuel leverage Praj’s four decades of global experience and expertise in processing diverse range of feedstock. Bio-MobilityTM platform comprises of:

● Traditional Biofuels e.g.1G ethanol and BioDiesel, that are well established
● Advanced Biofuels e.g. 2G Ethanol, Compressed biogas that are under commercialization
● uture Biofuels e.g. Bio-hydrogen, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and Marine biofuels that are ushering on the horizon.

Enormous untapped potential for growth of Biofuels exists as it has applications across all modes of transportation. Innovative technology is the kingpin for techno commercial viability of biofuel plants. Praj’s Indigenously developed innovative technology i.e. Bio-MobilityTM,, to process diverse range of sugary and starchy feedstock for production of biofuels are positively impacting techno-commercial viability of projects.

Bio-Refineries aiding energy transition from Hydrocarbon to Carbohydrate sources

We are familiar with a typical petrochemical refinery as to how it transforms and refines crude oil into more useful products such as petroleum naphtha, gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, etc. Similarly, a Bio-refinery processes biomass and converts them into different types of biofuels, biochemicals, and other beneficial by-products.

Sugar platform bio-refineries break down biomass into different types of component sugars for fermentation or other biological processing into various fuels and chemicals.

On the other hand, thermochemical bio-refineries transform biomass into synthesis gas. Contaminants in syngas are removed by reforming catalysts and catalytic reforming processes to secure ethanol.

Products from bio-refineries are environment friendly; don’t have hazardous waste streams, and are less toxic and poisonous. Biofuels, being a cleaner greener energy source, facilitate transition from hydrocarbon economy to carbohydrate economy.

Being an agrarian economy, India has abundant biomass availability across the country for sustained supply of feedstock to bio-refineries to facilitate such energy transition.

India’s ethanol industry is over two decades old and its growth story underlines the goal of sustainable and environment friendly development by the year 2030. A conductive policy framework that provides a long-term growth perspective of industry is critical to boost stakeholder confidence and development of a robust ecosystem across the value chain. The Government of India’s strategic policy intervention from time to time has fuelled the growth of the ethanol sector.

The Indian government has taken several decisions to step up the domestic manufacture of bio-fuels and advancement of the target of blending 20% ethanol in petrol by 2025, instead of 2030, is one such landmark development. Introduction of the National Biofuels Policy, 2018, SATAT policy for CBG are few other notable examples in this regard. The ethanol industry is aligned with several flagship programs of the government such as Doubling farmer’s Income, Make in India Swachh Bharat, among others. It is evident that a stronger strategic plan and integrated efforts are necessary to match this right intent.

Praj’s Bio-MobilityTM technology advancement and engineering capabilities are redefining India's overall transportation fuel mix and facilitating energy transition from hydrocarbon to carbohydrate sources.

Bio-MobilityTM as the nation’s growth enabler

The Bio-MobilityTM platform of technologies for production of biofuel serves as a social, economic, environmental and energy growth enabler. Its adoption as a preferred solution for the transportation sector creates winners including farmers, rural youth, city residents, industries, government and above all, our future generations.

From an environmental standpoint, biofuels contribute to sustainable decarbonization through circular Bio-economy as it uses renewable Bio-based feedstock. Biofuel’s usage will help India achieve nationally determined contributions towards the reduction of GHG emissions as committed in the COP21(Conference of the Parties 21) of the Paris Climate Change Summit.

According to the Paris Agreement, it is imperative to reduce carbon-emission by 45% in 2030 as compared to 2010 and restore the balance between carbon emission and absorption by the middle of this century. This means, by 2050, establishing a carbon emission absorption system is mandatory for every nation involved in this agreement. This campaign has been named as Race to Zero. This objective is ambitious, but not unfeasible. GHG reduction is one of the top agendas as the Race to Zero Campaign gains momentum ahead of the COP26 Glasgow Summit, scheduled in November 2021. The use of biofuels is likely to gain momentum as a result of this conference as they also facilitate the fulfilment of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

In the social context, agri-waste as a feedstock provides an alternate sustainable revenue stream for farmers and employment to the youth within the farming community as rural entrepreneurship gets a fillip to build a robust ecosystem to facilitate the supply chain for feedstock, bio-aggregations and transportation.

From the economic perspective, maximizing the share of captive renewable biofuels will help minimize the current account deficit caused by mineral oil imports. This will also ease the pressure on the exchange rate of the Indian Rupee in the international market and help improve the foreign exchange position of the country. Biofuel usage facilitates inclusive growth as they bolster the rural economy.

With growing concerns over deteriorating environmental conditions, rising air pollution and associated health hazards attributable to vehicular pollution, there is an acute need to reimagine the transportation fuel mix. If we map conventional mobility, electric mobility and Bio-MobilityTM on various socio-economic and environmental parameters, we find that Bio-MobilityTM scores on almost all parameters. Inclusion of the farming community in the value chain is a major advantage of Bio-MobilityTM which is very critical in Indian context.

Furthermore, it has the potential to work in tandem with the existing as well as futurist mobility solutions by way of Flex Fuel vehicles and Hybrid vehicles. In the process, it leverages the existing ecosystem of automobile and component industry as well as establishing the fuel dispensing infrastructure. This platform integrates all the positive aspects of the existing ICE technology as well as e-mobility, while helping in addressing the challenges on the energy, economy and environment fronts.

Deployed globally, Praj’s Bio-MobilityTM technology is setting a new benchmark for performance of biofuel production and energy efficiency while helping achieve carbon footprint reduction.

Drawing Inferences

It cannot be denied that the road to a nation’s development and prosperity opens up when the economy is able to create abundant wealth. While fossil fuels have accelerated the progress of human civilization, it has caused irreparable damage to the environment. Praj’s Bio-MobilityTM platform, consisting of low carbon renewable biofuels, is reimagining India’s transportation fuel mix where biofuels are poised to play a bigger role.

Biofuels can no longer be seen as an alternative to vehicle fuels. It can be instrumental in building an entirely new economy. The use of agricultural waste for production of biofuels would open up a massive income source to the farmers. Bio-fuels would thus, not only drive machines and vehicles, they would also drive a brand new rural economy towards prosperity.

Being an economic, social, and environmental enabler, biofuels have the potential to mainstream India’s bio-economy, thereby facilitating the nation’s growth objectives.

About Dr. Ravindra Utgikar

Dr. Ravindra Utgikar is the Vice President, Corporate Strategy & Marketing at Praj Industries Ltd. With over thirty years of industry experience in product as well as project businesses, Dr. Utgikar has worked in the international and domestic markets.

He holds a Doctorate degree in Management, in addition to a degree in Electronics & Telecommunication Engineering, both from Pune University. He has successfully completed a course on Global Account Management - ‘GAMPRO 2007’ at the Account Management Center at University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. He has actively participated in several senior management executive learning & development programs, organized by renowned institutions such as CCL, USA, ISB, India, etc.

Passionate about education, Dr. Utgikar has long standing associations with several academic institutions in India and abroad. He has actively participated in numerous initiatives to further the causes of industry in forums such as CII, Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, Pune Management Association etc.

Dr. Utgikar has authored several articles, papers & case studies that have appeared in international and domestic journals.