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Can 60% of India's Transport Gasoline Come from Waste Biomass?

Transforming agricultural waste into biofuel in India could meet up to 59% of the country’s demand for transport gasoline while creating up to one million jobs, according to a new study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, commissioned by enzyme company Novozymes. _GCC

It is important that societies do not push new forms of energy beyond their economic ability to support themselves. Too many mandates, rebates, taxes, regulations, punitive fees, and other top-heavy government incentives can be the "kiss of death" for any technology which is not economically ready for prime time.

India is the world’s 6th largest consumer of energy with current consumption of 17.3 billion liters (4.57 billion gallons US) per year of gasoline. Demand is expected to grow 8.5% every year till 2020. Assuming a barrel of crude oil costs US$100, India will spend US$19.4 billion on importing gasoline by 2020.

The Bloomberg study “Next-generation Ethanol: What’s in it for India’s commissioned by Novozymes was presented at event organized under the aegis of the Danish Embassy in India in cooperation with India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. According to the report, biofuels from agricultural residues are an important existing alternative to liquid fuel which is environmentally sustainable and should be pursued aggressively.

By converting agricultural residues into fuel ethanol, India has the potential to reduce its dependence on imported petroleum. What’s more interesting is that this can be achieved without changing today’s agricultural land-use patterns or cultivating new energy crops. In addition, we already have the technology ready for deployment.

—Thomas Nagy, Executive Vice President, Novozymes
While the potential is high, the report states that issues like lack of policy implementation, absence of any incentive for collection of agriculture residue (only 25% of the waste is recovered from the fields) and requisite infrastructure need to be addressed for the optimum development of India’s advanced biofuel potential. _GCC

What would it take to obtain 25% or more of a society's transport fuel from biomass? It would take a lot of biomass, for starters. More than can be obtained merely from agricultural, forestry, or municipal waste. Dedicated terrestrial and marine biomass farms growing highly prolific biomass species would be necessary.

Better methods for harvesting, drying, and concentrating the biomass near the point of growth are mandatory. In other words, integrated infrastructures for local, regional, and central processing and distribution must be constructed at significant cost -- but in a scalable and modular manner, as markets grow.

Significantly better efficiencies for converting densified biomass to refined chemicals and proto-fuels would be required. Synthetic biological entities along with advanced nano-catalytics will likely be involved in lower temperature conversion to high energy fuels.

In the intermediate processes between today's thermochemical approaches (pyrolysis, gasification, torrefaction, etc.) and tomorrow's advanced low temperature synthesis of fuels, much better management of process and waste heat will be necessary, to conserve as much energy as possible.

More efficient ways of extracting hydrogen from biomass for hydrotreatment of proto-biofuels will be useful.

Don't forget fuel cells which can use biomass and biomass by-products -- such as sugars derived from biomass -- as fuels. Such non-combustion means of utilising biomass may well improve overall efficiency of biomass use on a large scale.

Whether a society derives 10% of its transport fuels from biomass or 80%, will depend upon its land and sea resources for biomass production, as well as its innate hydrocarbon resources and its ability to pay for imported hydrocarbon fuels.

By. Al Fin




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