Bio-CNG incentives to usher paddy stubble-based green projects
Paddy and wheat stubble, the burning of which is blamed for the toxic smog that blankets Delhi every winter, is set to fuel a green initiative. Haryana and Punjab are expected to see investor interest in bio-CNG plants using paddy and wheat straw, thanks to the central government’s October 1 announcement of incentives for utilising an agriculture residue that has of late become a major environmental concern. Apart from generating green fuel, such projects will also produce high-quality manure and extra income for farmers. The policy announced by oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan offers Rs 46 per kg of bio-CNG made from paddy stubble and a subsidy of Rs 7 crore if a project uses 70 tonnes per day of stubble. The tariff is highly viable in itself and the subsidy is an icing on the cake,” said Sanjeev Nagpal, managing director of Chandigarh-based Sampurn Agri Ventures, which runs the only operational paddy straw-based CNG plant in the country. The company is shortly doubling its capacity to 40 tonnes of straw in response to the new incentives, Nagpal said. Around 30 million tonnes of paddy stubble is generated each year in Punjab and Haryana in October and November. Almost 80-90% of it is burned in fields,” said Nagpal, who played a role in the shaping of the new policy. He said there could be 400-1,000 plants to make bio-CNG. This would add to the income of farmers and help replace existing polluting fuels. A tonne of paddy straw generates 112 kg of CNG, he said. “We are currently buying paddy straw at Rs 2 per kg and a plant will be financially viable even after factoring incremental increase in its price,” he said. Nagpal is in talks with investors to set up a string of bio-CNG projects. A day after the announcement of incentives for bio-CNG, Mahindra Waste to Energy Solutions Ltd, a subsidiary of Mahindra & Mahindra, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Punjab for setting up a unit for making bio-CNG and organic fertiliser from paddy straw. The company plans to invest Rs 17 crore in a pilot bio-methanation project that will use 10,000 tonnes of paddy or wheat straw a year. The company is coming up with a CNG-based tractor and the project is in sync with the product,” said an executive at Mahindra Tractors, another unit of the Mahindra Group. Oil marketing companies including Indian Oil Corporation have already inked MoUs with Punjab and Haryana to buy bio-CNG. Nagpal, who had developed machinery for bio-CNG projects, said a village-scale project could cost around Rs 35 lakh to set up. “Incorporation and mulching of stubble releases methane and is also environmental hazard,” he said, adding that farmers would benefit from the project because the manure produced in the process is of high quality. “One kg of this manure equals the potency of 30 kg of cow dung manure and the presence of 17 different elements (in it) has been validated by Punjab Agriculture University,” Nagpal said.