Chhattisgarh is going to produce biofuel
using paddy. The state has decided it after experimenting with the idea of using jatropha seeds for biofuel production for years. The ambitious scheme failed because of multiple reasons such as a shortage in seed supply. Biofuels have emerged as a useful alternative to fossil fuel, showing promise of reducing the CO2 emissions and playing a role in containing climate change
For producing biofuel, the by-product of paddy can be used. Rice, the staple food of over half of the population of the world, particularly in Asian countries is a major crop in most of the developing nations. Millions of tons of rice straw (the stem and leaves) are left behind after the grains are harvested. Though a major portion of it is used as animal feed and papermaking, still a huge amount of the rice straw goes to waste and therefore, is burned in open fields, which increases air pollution and the risk of disastrous fires.
Therefore, these rice straws and rice husks are considered the best options to be used in biofuel production. Rice husk comprises around thirty to fifty percent of organic carbon and it also contains a high heat value of 13-16 MJ/kg. This can be used to generate fuel, heat, and electricity via thermal, chemical, and bioprocesses.
Setting up plants to produce biofuel
The CM of Chhattisgarh Bhupesh Baghel told Mongabay-India that although the state sowed Jatropha, there was no production owing to lack of proper management. Therefore, the state has considered paddy owing to its numerous benefits.
“We procure paddy from farmers. Wherever there are plants, farmers will supply paddy at those points directly. There will be no transportation cost involved. We have already got permission to make biofuel from maize and sugarcane. But the production of these crops is low. The state has decided to buy maize at an MSP so that farmers can be attracted and it can be used to make biofuel,” Baghel added.
Arun Prasad, who is the managing director of Chhattisgarh State Industrial Development Corporation (CSIDC), a nodal agency, for promoting industrial development in the state, said: “The state government has entered into a memorandum of understanding with nine private players and two public companies, the Indian Oil Corporation and the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited. These companies are scouting for suitable lands around six rice hubs and trying to obtain environmental clearances in a few districts for setting up plants to produce biofuel.”
The Managing Director of Chattisgarh State Industrial Development Corporation emphasized that most enterprises want to invest in the state owing to the assured availability and supply of rice in Chattisgarh.
Part of Clean energy plans
While Biofuel is a significant component in the Indian Government’s clean energy plans, the country is the 3rd largest importer of crude oil, globally and it majorly depends on crude oil imports in order to meet the domestic energy requirements and needs of the country.
Another plant from which biofuel can be produced is the agave plant. This plant grows in wastelands and most often it is used for live fencing on all sides of the plantation. The forest department of Chattisgarh is fostering the cultivation of agave extensively in the Bastar region. And this has been used in rope making and handicrafts from the fiber extracted from agave leaves.
Prasad explained that “Whenever there is excess paddy collection, it has to be lifted by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the central pool but the FCI has its limitations as well and cannot collect beyond a particular point.” “So, the state government is thinking how best to utilize paddy so that farmers are not impacted and continue getting the minimum support price. There is a need to think about value addition from paddy. The Centre is also promoting biofuels to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels and crude oil,” he added.
Baghel explained to Mongabay-India that “the FCI does not take the entire amount and the state saves a lot of paddy. That is why there is a need to be permitted to make biofuel from paddy. But the Centre only wants FCI rice to be used for this purpose.”
The bio-ethanol component
Arun Prasad also stated that the bio-ethanol component has been added to Chattisgarh's common industrial policy, but the plan of leveraging huge amounts of paddy for manufacturing biofuel should be approved by the central government.
He also added that the Bastar region is perfect for setting up rice-based biofuel factories. However, even if biofuel can be produced from any kind of carbohydrate, there must be a regular supply of raw materials.
Biofuels can contribute greatly to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Extracting biofuels from agricultural wastes such as rice husk and rice straws and when used instead of traditional fuels can contribute to a more sustainable and ethical environment.