With commercial production of bio-ethanol from agricultural waste underway in Italy, Indian oil companies’ plans to shift to biofuel technology appear brighter
In a development that could give a boost to India’s plans to shift to second generation ethanol technology and save on the crude oil import bill, Beta Renewables, a global leader in cellulosic biofuels, has opened a large advanced biofuels facility in Northern Italy in Crescentino to produce bio-ethanol from agricultural residues and energy crops on commercial scale.
Kicking off a new era in the biofuels use and technology, the plant is to be designed and built to produce bio-ethanol using enzymatic conversion. “The advanced biofuels market presents transformational economic, environmental and social opportunities, and with the opening, we pave the way for a green revolution in the chemical sector,’’ according to Beta Renewables’ chairman and CEO, Guido Ghisolfi.
According to G.S. Krishnana, regional president (South Asia), Novozymes, this new technology will have a positive impact on India’s programme to introduce 20 per cent ethanol content in fuel by 2017. “India and its oil marketing companies (OMCs) have been watching these developments very closely and now they can make use of this new technological breakthrough to not only reduce the oil import bill, but also reduce the outgo of foreign exchange. It will take the technology to the next level and the OMCs have floated tenders to source ethanol,’’ he added.
Presently, Indian OMCs have been mandated to use five per cent ethanol in fuel which is proposed to be hiked to 20 per cent by 2017. However, the lack of proper and effective technology had impacted the progress of this mission..
The technology will turn agricultural waste into millions of litres of low-emission green fuel, proving that cellulosic ethanol is no longer a distant dream and is ready for large-scale commercialisation.
“We will continue to commercially expand Beta Renewables’ core technology throughout the world, and we are very confident at this stage given the demand we see around the globe,” Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes, said.
Both Mossi Ghisolfi Group and Novozymes formed a strategic partnership in October last year, making Novozymes the preferred enzyme supplier for Beta Renewables’ current and future cellulosic biofuel projects. The technology at the facility uses wheat straw, rice straw and arundo donax, a high-yielding energy crop grown on marginal land. Lignin, a polymer extracted from biomass during the ethanol production process, is used at an attached power plant, which generates enough power to meet the facility’s energy needs, with any excess green electricity sold to the local grid.
“Policy makers all over the world now need to send clear signals to encourage the necessary investments in advanced biofuels,’’ Mr. Nielsen said. Stable and predictable blending mandates, incentives for the collection of agricultural residues, and investment support for the first large-scale plants will help move the world substantially in terms of reducing greenhouse gasses, stimulating economies, and providing energy security. Continued reliance on fossil fuels is not viable.
A recent study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance concludes that transforming agricultural residues into advanced biofuels could create millions of jobs worldwide, economic growth, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and energy security by 2030. Government support is, however, vital to accelerate the deployment of next-generation bio refineries. More than $200 million has been invested in research and development of the technology used to produce cellulosic ethanol at the Crescentino facility.