IIT Kanpur’s incubated company sets up floating CNG filling station in Varanasi using novel Self Adjusting Fixed Type Jetty technology
The CNG filling station at Khidkiya Ghat in Varanasi will ensure the consistent and safe CNG pipeline connection to all the dispensers with controlled risk factors even in peak flood season
On December 13, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Shrikashi Vishwanath Corridor at Varanasi. Though the corridor is in itself speaks volumes about the development projects that have been happening in PM Modi’s constituency, one project that has started functioning in Varanasi needs special attention. The Khidkiya Ghat at Varanasi recently got its first and world’s first floating CNG filling station for eco-friendly boats. IIT Kanpur has contributed to the project by providing a patented technology, i.e. Self Adjusting Fixed Type Jetty (SAFTJ). PM Modi took a boat from Khidkiya ghat to reach Shrikashi Vishwanath Corridor.
Abhay Karandikar, Director IIT Kanpur, in a detailed thread on Twitter, talked about the technology. He said IIT Kanpur’s incubated company Acquafront Infrastructure successfully deployed a patented technology, “Self Adjusting Fixed Type Jetty (SAFTJ)”, to construct the world’s first floating CNG filling station for eco-friendly boats on the Khidkiya Ghat, Varanasi.
The station would ensure the consistent and safe CNG pipeline connection to all the dispensers with controlled risk factors even in peak flood season. After inaugurating Shrikashi Vishwanath Corridor, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited the facility.
It is notable and Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) India has developed the model ghat, Khidkiya Ghat. Karandikar added that it would serve as a new tourist attraction from where the passengers could take the river route and reach the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in eco-friendly CNG boats.
In December 2020, the project to modernise Khadikiya Ghat was initiated to make it a new centre of attraction for the devotees as well as tourists visiting Kashi from different corners of the world. The main aim of the development project was to make it accessible via water, land and air. One of the 84 ghats of Kashi that are spread along the Ganga river in the shape of a crescent, Khidkiya Ghat, was developed at the cost of Rs.35.83 crores.
Spread over 11.5 acres, the ghat was scheduled to be functional in July 2021. The designing and engineering of the ghat were done by planner India. The ghat has been prepared with gabion and rotation walls that look like the old ghats but is much safer even during floods in the river. While other ghats lack parking space, this ghat accommodates parking space as well.
Deepak Agrawal, Divisional Commissioner, Varanasi, had said that though the majority of the tourists visit Assi and Dashashwamedh Ghats, they are not accessible by public transport like trains. Thus, Khidkiya ghat was being developed with modern facilities.
Equipped with amenities like an RO water facility, food plaza, a helipad that can accommodate two helicopters, and a CNG plant along with easy access to the city and tourist spots, Khidkiya ghat is one big step towards making Varanasi a smart city.
The CNG boats and importance of CNG filling station at the ghat
PM Modi’s vision for Varanasi included the addition of CNG boats to ensure an eco-friendly mode of transport via the Ganga River. The proposal was accepted by the boat owners with full support. At first, there was a temporary small refilling station at the ghat as the trial of CNG boats included a very small number. However, soon more boat owners showed interest in converting their boats to CNG to ensure Ganga River does not get polluted.
While talking to OpIndia, Ankit Patel, founder of Acquafront Infrastructure Pvt Ltd (AIPL), said that they were granted the project to build the base for the CNG plant on July 14, 2021. They handed over the completed project in just five months, on December 3, 2021. He said, “The aim was to reduce the water and air pollution. Thus the Petroleum Ministry, in association with the local administration, provided subsidised CNG engines for the boat owners. Initially, there were limited boats running on CNG, but soon more boat owners showed interest. There was a need for a stable floating CNG station.”
It is noteworthy that the subsidy for the CNG engines is being provided via Varanasi Smart City GAIL’s CSR Fund. So far, 20 crores have been spent on the project. Every engine costs around Rs 2 lakh for the engine in a small boat and Rs 3 lakh for the engine in a large boat. Around 900 boats have already been installed with such engines.
Ankit Patel further added, “On July 14, our company got the project as we have the patented technology to build a stable floating station that can remain functional even during floods. We delivered the completed project to GAIL on December 3.” When asked how different it was from what they had proposed in their videos and project details, Ankit said, “What is available on the internet was for the passengers. The load-bearing capacity was much lesser than what we had built. The floating base can tolerate around 600 tonnes (6,00,000 KG) of weight without any problem.”
He further added that his company also provided the same technology at a smaller scale for floating bridges etc., but the largest product that they have supplied is the floating base for the CNG filling station.
AIPL has provided the world’s first modular CNG floating filling station (Modular Barge), two passenger jetties (HDPE) and a floating bridge (SIFJ) for the Khidkiya ghat.
The benefit of CNG engine
Compared to a diesel-petrol engine in a boat, a CNG engine produces up to 10% less pollution. Harmful gases like sulphur dioxide are not produced while using a CNG engine. Also, the CNG engine is much quieter compared to the diesel engine. Notably, the loud noise of diesel engines has adverse effects on aquatic animals, and CNG engines would reduce that problem as well.
According to the boat owners, their fuel expenses have been reduced as well. Earlier, they were spending Rs 500 to Rs 600 every day. Now the same number of rounds are being taken in CNG worth Rs 300 to Rs 350. While five-litre diesel could take only four rounds from Assi to Rajghat, 5 KG CNG is good enough for up to 12 rounds.
What is SAFTJ
Self Adjusting Fixed Type Jetty or SAFTJ is a jetty that has a self-adjusting mechanism that is governed and actuated by the natural forces to fluctuating water levels. It is a conventional deck that facilitates movement between marine and inland infrastructure but with a twist.
This technology was proposed in the June of 2016 by a group of Civil Engineers pursuing their degree at the esteemed IIT-BHU under the guidance of professors Dr KK Pandey and Dr Rajesh Kumar from the Dept of Civil Engineering.
According to the paper submitted on the technology by the developers of the technology at IIT Kanpur, SAFTJ is equipped with a self-adjusting mechanism to control the response of the structure against the fluctuating water level. This mechanism is governed and actuated by the natural forces (gravitational and buoyant force). This technology nullifies the requirement of two separate jetties by possessing the ability to adjust in bi-direction (horizontally and vertically) as per the seasonal/tidal changes in water bodies.
The team and the stakeholders in the project
The IIT Kanpur team included AIPL founders Ankit Patel, Achin Agrawal, their team members Keshav Pathak and Rakesh Jatolia, their mentors Jai Shankar Sharma and Prof K.K. Pandey. The stakeholders in the project were GAIL India, MECON Limited, Startup Incubation and Innovation Centre, IIT Kanpur and Varanasi Smart City Ltd.