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APR 09 2012

India has a wealth of biomass

  • Economic Times, ET Bureau / Hyderabad
  • Created: Mon 09th APR 2012

For a rapidly growing economy like India, energy and energy security are equally important. The country has enormous potential for generation of electricity from solar and wind power, as well as to increase the use of biomass in energy production. Finland-based Chempolis, a developer of biorefining technologies, is looking at strengthening its relationships with Indian companies in the renewable sector. Pasi Rousu, president, Chempolis Asia Pacific, feels that in recent months, Indian companies have realised the importance of environment conservation and sustainability. “Indian companies have to adopt green products and next generation technology to minimise pollution and chemical wastes,” he tells Ankita Rai in a recent interaction. Excerpts:

Chempolis is a technology company providing innovative and sustainable solutions for biomass, paper, biofuels and chemical industries. What kind of business potential do you see in India?

The business potential in India is remarkable. India has a wealth of biomass that could be utilised more efficiently. The most potential biomass sources are bagasse–the fibrous matter that remains after sugarcane or sorghum stalks are crushed to extract their juice–and straws. The need for renewable energy, both transportation fuel and electricity, are very large in India. Based on the biomass availability, there is potential for profitable bio-refining of 110 metric tonne per annum (MT/a) of straws and bagasse into 40 Mt/a of bioethanol, biodiesel and biochemicals. This equals 200 to 600 biorefineries while the production would replace gasoline completely by ethanol and reduce imports of crude oil by 25%. Moreover, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 Mt/a.

Tell us something about the company’s plans to grow operation in India.

Chempolis intends to establish a subsidiary in India in order to enable multiple biorefinery projects. Negotiations are already on going with a number of Indian companies in the field of sugar, alcohol and biomass industries. Moreover, a high-level visit of the Indian minister of new and renewable energy, Farooq Abdullah, took place in the Chempolis biorefinery in Finland in 2011. Chempolis will expand activities to license formicobio and formicofib technologies in multiple biorefineries India.

What are the advantages in using Chempolis technologies? What is the USP of your products?

Chempolis’ core products are the two patented third generation technologies for biorefining of residual biomasses: formicobio for the co-production of non-food cellulosic bioethanol, biochemicals and biocoal, and formicofib for the co-production of non-wood papermaking fibres (pulp), biochemicals and biocoal.

The competitive edge and uniqueness of Chempolis 3G biorefining technology platform when compared to 1G and 2G technologies are that it enables production of multiple value-added products from renewable raw materials. Chempolis’ 3G biorefining technologies are effluent-free, self-sufficient in terms of energy, and produce no carbon dioxide or sulphuric emissions. Biomass is selectively fractionated with a completely recyclable bio-solvent while all the biomass components are processed into valuable products.

The investment required to build a biorefinery is strongly dependent from the capacity of the plant, and ranges typically between 40-70 million euros.

Domestic biomass use by poor households in India has come in for severe criticism by environmentalists for causing pollution. What is the way out?

It is important to utilise biomass resources as efficiently as possible. Biorefining with Chempolis’ technologies brings rural areas extra income as residual biomass can be sold and delivered to the biorefinery. Moreover, in Chempolis’ 3G biorefining technologies biomass utilisation is efficient while all the main components of biomass are processed into multiple value-added products. Besides advanced transportation biofuels and biochemicals, biocoal is produced. Biocoal can be combusted to gain steam for the biorefinery and some surplus electricity to the grid. Generally speaking economic, environmental and social sustainability is improved if residual biomass is used in biorefinery.

It is said to be the age of clean energy and environment friendly products, yet not many people are implementing it in their day-to-day life. What could be the reason for this?

The possibilities to choose environmentally benign alternatives must be made easy and tempting enough. This can be enabled by governmental regulations, such as feed tariffs, subsidies, grants and tax incentives. In every day life, increasing knowledge and educating people about clean energy benefits is very important.

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