Anil Kumar Sastry
The oil and gas conservation fortnight has been observed in the country from January 15. The Public Eye takes a look at efforts being made by public transport providers in Karnataka to save fuel.
BANGALORE: While the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has taken steps to save fuel, the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and South Western Railways are yet to catch up.
The KSRTC runs 5,100 buses, consumes 12 crore litres of diesel a year and incurs an expenditure of about Rs. 400 crore.
It has taken the lead in conserving oil by experimenting with various alternatives blending diesel with biofuels such as honge, palm, sunflower, groundnut, coconut and sesame.
Honge oil experiment
In August 2004, KSRTC put two buses from the Doddaballapur depot on a blend of biofuel (mixing 10 per cent of honge oil with diesel) and found that the performance of the buses was on par with other vehicles running on the same route.
It also found that engines and fuel injection pumps of these buses did not face operational difficulties.
On the other hand, the mileage of these buses increased from 5.1 kmpl to 5.12 kmpl.
Honge oil costs Rs. 28 a litre as against Rs. 36.39 for diesel.
The smoke density was also reduced by 27.5 per cent.
After the success of the pilot project, the corporation decided to run all buses of Doddaballapur depot on diesel blended with honge oil from September 2005.
The cumulative savings upon using honge oil for all the 71 buses is about Rs. 10 lakh a year. KSRTC is now planning to use 10 per cent of biofuels (honge - Pongamia Pinnata / jatropa - Jatrophann) at depots located in the taluk headquarters where steady supply of biofuels can be ensured.
KSRTC has 28 such depots operating 2,240 buses. It requires more than 50 lakh litres of biofuel every year. The KSRTC has called tenders for the supply of the oil for the remaining depots in the State.
The corporation is likely to save Rs. 6 crore if it can use 10 per cent honge oil in all its depots.
It is planning to experiment with ethanol on 130 buses shortly.
The KSRTC model is likely to be replicated in other sister corporations across the State, according to KSRTC officials.
Though the plans show promise, the difficulty is that hardly anyone in the State grows Honge or Jatropa plants on a large scale. Doddaballapur depot gets 600 litres of honge oil per day from suppliers appointed through tenders.
They in turn procure the oil from villagers.
Use of ethanol
As the KSRTC is worried that the price of honge oil may go up, it is increasingly looking at ethanol as an alternative.
Ethanol is a clear colourless liquid produced from plants such as sugarcane, corn, etc., separated from molasses.
When used in buses, it has the potential to bring down the demand for automobile fuel and offers a cushion against global oil-price hikes. It will also save foreign exchange.
To harness this potential, 20 depots of the KSRTC have obtained licences to procure 60 lakh litres of ethanol from November 2006 to June this year.
Currently, KSRTC buys ethanol at Rs. 23 a litre. In the Bangalore Kempe Gowda bus depot, three lakh litres of ethanol is being used. The KSRTC plans to replicate this in five more depots.
Ethanol is estimated to reduce suspended particulate matter in the air by 22,729 tonnes a year when all buses use blended fuel.
Nitrus oxide emission is likely to come down from 8.5 mg/m3 (microgram per cubic metre) to 1.8 mg/m3; carbon monoxide from 23 mg/m3 to 12 mg/m3, smoke density from 70 mg/m3 to 50 mg/m3.
The advantages of blending diesel with ethanol are that it does not require modifications to the engine, it is biodegradable and improves lubricity of engines up to 40 per cent.
The South Western Railway has planted three lakh jatropa saplings along its rail network and is planning to plant seven lakh more.
The plants require at least two years for harvest. The railways would use jathropa blended diesel only thereafter.