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Dhyeya IAS Blog

In urban settlements in India, especially in cities like Delhi, that has, reportedly on the Christmas this year, been ranked the most polluted city in the World, deteriorating quality of life impedes our overall growth, for which there appear only one solution and that is of using biogas an alternative energy.

For the last few years NASA has been alerting countries of the increasing level of air pollution that is becoming a grave health concern for all. To add to the wound, our huge import bill is proving to be a constant drain on our forex reserves.

For the sake of the future the world is now looking towards green energy technologies. A very simple solution for this big problem is renewable energy like Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) or Biogas.

Biogas, that can be used for cooking, lighting, power generation and automobile fuels, is produced fromanaerobic digestion (without oxygen) of any organic material. It contains 50-70 % of methane, 30-45 % of carbon dioxide and traces of water vapour and hydrogen sulfide (H2S).

Raw Biogas is upgraded to be utilized for automotive fuel and this upgrade gas is generally termed as Biomethane that is bottled at pressure of 200 bar, that in turn is called Bio-CNG. It is imperative to mention here that the BISC (Bureau of India Standards) has already issued a standard for Biomethane to be used for transport application.

Benefits of Biogas

There are various resources available for producing this Gas that is a viable option for our country because it is environmental friendly, cheap, clean and versatile fuel. Harnessing such a resource as an alternative clean energy can certainly encourage agriculture, rural industries, dairy and animal farming in a sustainable way. Furthermore, it can regulated environmental cycles effectively as nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the process are conserved in the slurry and can be returned to the soil.

This digested slurry is a good source to obtain several micronutrients such as Zinc, iron, manganese and copper.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Biogas

Keeping in mind the Prime Minister’s vision and mission of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, IIT Delhi is preparing to develop a small household model of biogas digester of the size of domestic refrigerator or washing machine in which the kitchen waste and food leftover material of the household would be converted into this renewable energy, supplementing LPG for cooking gas; this may save at least 10-15 % of LPG consumption in household.

In most of our cities the waste is piling up like mountains and it is becoming difficult to find a fool-proof solution to this fast spreading problem. This problem can be skirted by segregating biodegradable waste and then subjecting to household /entrepreneurial system of biogas plants.

Such initiatives, to utilize the waste generated by them, taken by people can help in keeping the environment clean, green, and disease free. And this precisely, is the main objective of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

National Biogas and Manure Management Programme (NBMMP)

In 1981, the National Biogas and Manure Management Programme (NBMMP) was introduced by theMinistry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). As the government views this technology as a means to decrease rural poverty, it launched NBMMP as a Central Sector Scheme that provides for setting up ofFamily Type Biogas Plants mainly for rural and semi-urban households.

To utilize this renewable energy to address the deficiency in adequate cooking energy sources in India is the aim of the NBMMP. Against a potential of 1.2 crore, over 48 lakh small biogas plants of family sized (of one cubic metre onwards) for cattle manure have been installed so far.

Biogas based Distributed/Grid Power Generation Programme

With an intention to encourage biogas based power generation, particularly in small capacity range, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in 2005-06 has started a scheme “Biogas based Distributed/Grid Power Generation Programme.” In our country these Biogas based units can be a reliable decentralized power generation option.

A National Biogas Mission with a target for setting up of I crore biogas plant by 2022 is being contemplated by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. A task force, to work on preparation of Mission Document, has already been constituted by the Ministry. This Mission is an initiative for utilizing all kind of bio-waste for this renewable energy production that will result in providing energy security and encouraging organic agriculture in India.

Status of Biogas in India

At IIT Delhi, Biogas Devlopmnt and Training Centre, a research team has estimated that the total biogas generation potential in our country is nearly 50,000 million cubic metre annually. This estimate is tantamount to 30,000 million cubic metre per year of upgraded biogas that can be used as Bio-CNG for vehicles; this amount of upgraded biogas can replace 86.8% of petroleum fuel used in transportation and 83.4% petroleum fuel in cooking sector.

The National Capital Region itself has potential to produce approximately 800 million cubic metres of biogas per year, which if upgraded to Bio-CNG quality, can produce nearly 350 million kg of CNG per yearwhich in turn can run more than 5,00 buses and 2 lakh cars.

Presently, Delhi NCR alone possesses more than 8:Lakh CNG vehicles and 325 KNG gas stations; with this extensive infrastructure CNG can easily be implemented as a transport fuel. Installed at housing clusters across the cities, the small sewage treatment plants can provide a potential source for replacing CNG in vehicles for local transportation in various cities.

At IIT Delhi a passenger car testing, using Bio-CNG is going; in fact this vehicle has already covered 40,000 km run on upgraded biogas in which exhaust emissions were found lower than petrol/ diesel and similar to CNG. It is also a matter of great relief that existing CNG vehicles do not require to undergo any modification and are to be consonant to Bio-CNG.

This technology has ignited the hope of millions as it promises a green and low cost fuel for automobilesand various thermal applications. Therefore, it can be ascertained that biogas has a potential, in India, towards obtaining energy sustainability by using locally available organic wastes that may further assist in reducing greenhouse emissions and providing good quality bio-fertilizer for farmers.