After Bhutan, Assam refinery eyes Nepal for supplying high-altitude diesel 

The public sector NRL is the only refinery that supplies diesel with a low-pour point for the smooth operation of vehicles and machines at -30 degrees centigrade 

August 23, 2023 02:06 pm | Updated 02:06 pm IST - GUWAHATI

The Numaligarh refinery in Assam. File

The Numaligarh refinery in Assam. File

GUWAHATI With the market in civil war-ravaged Myanmar unlikely to open up anytime soon, an Assam refinery is now eyeing Nepal for a special grade of diesel that can be used easily in sub-zero conditions. 

The public sector Numaligarh Refinery (NRL), often referred to as the Assam Accord Refinery, has been the lone supplier of low-pour high-speed diesel to Bhutan for several years now. This grade of diesel, enabling vehicles and machines to be operated in temperatures as low as -30 degrees centigrade, is also supplied to the Indian armed forces across the Himalayan belt. 

“We have been supplying 2,000 kilolitres of low-pour point diesel to Bhutan. We are looking at the higher reaches of Nepal where this diesel can be used although the normal diesel can suffice for large swathes of that country,” NRL’s managing director Bhaskar Jyoti Phukan said. 

“We have pipelines up to Siliguri [West Bengal] from where diesel is piped to Parbatipur in northern Bangladesh. Connecting Nepal, primarily serviced from eastern Uttar Pradesh, is a matter of laying 30 km of pipeline from Siliguri,” he said. 

Mr. Phukan said Bangladesh was keen on the NRL feeding northern Bangladesh, a region not easily accessible from the southern part of the country due to a network of rivers. “The economy of northern Bangladesh is dependent on farm-based industries and the demand for diesel is highest during the winter months when the rivers run shallow,” he said. 

The NRL, he added, was looking “very seriously” at the Myanmar market once the political situation there becomes stable. Myanmar has been caught in a violent civil war since a military coup in February 2021. 

“We experimented with the Myanmar market by sending a few fuel trucks. We are waiting for the situation to normalise there for executing our plan to have a retail outlet in the Sagaing province,” Mr. Phukan said. 

Bioethanol plant 

NRL chairman R. Rath, who is also the chairman and managing director of Oil India Limited which has a major stake in the refinery, said the refinery hoped to start its ₹1,750-crore bioethanol plant by the end of the current fiscal. 

The plant is expected to produce bioethanol from 5-lakh metric tonnes of bamboo per annum. The bioethanol would be blended with petrol for cutting down the country’s oil import bill, he said. 

“The bioethanol plant would help bamboo growers within a 250 km radius of the refinery [in eastern Assam’s Golaghat district] and 25 entrepreneurs selected for setting up bamboo chipping units generate ₹200 crore annually,” Dr. Rath said after an annual general meeting with the refinery’s shareholders on August 19. 

According to an aggregation model adopted, the bamboo growers would feed the chipping units where the raw material would be required to be chipped into a specific size. Each chipping unit would dispatch a truckload of bamboo chips that would be weighed for instant payment to the chipper as well as the trucker. 

“A blockchain-based model has been developed for ensuring smooth supply through 100 trucks contracted by the refinery,” Mr. Phukan said. 

The NRL had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Assam government for supplying bamboo saplings from three nurseries to the farmers for planting a creating the feedstock. 

Meanwhile, the 30-year-old refinery created a record by achieving more than 100% capacity utilisation for the first time to process 3,091 TMT (thousand metric tonnes) of crude oil. Another first for the refinery has been the inclusion of a business responsibility and sustainability report in its annual summation, although it is not mandatory for an unlisted company.

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