Modifying biofuel production process can reduce tailpipe emissions of nano-particles: Study

Modifying biofuel production process can reduce tailpipe emissions of nano-particles: Study

Tailpipe emissions result from fuel combustion in a vehicle’s engine.

New Delhi: Modifying the process of producing biofuels could help reduce tailpipe emissions of nano-particles from vehicles and help improve air quality, a study by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has said.

The findings of the study, conducted by TERI in collaboration with the Finnish Meteorological Institute and Finland’s Tampere University, was released on Wednesday at a conference on ‘Opportunities with Bio-fuel: Co-benefit of Air Quality Improvement’ here.

Tailpipe emissions result from fuel combustion in a vehicle’s engine. Emissions of primary concern include hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), air toxics, and CO2. Biofuels include bio-diesel, bio-CNG among others.

The study suggested modifications in India’s bio-fuel policy to address the tailpipe emission of nano-particles (particles between 1 and 100 nanometres).

A biofuel is produced through contemporary processes from biomass, rather than a fuel produced by the very slow geological processes involved in the formation of fossil fuels, such as oil.

The National Biofuel Policy helps reduce the tailpipe emissions of particulate matter but it increases the nanoparticle emissions in the atmosphere, a TERI official said, adding that airborne nanoparticles (lesser than 200 nm) from diesel-powered vehicles are more harmful to human health than fine particulates (including PM2.5 and PM10).

“These nanoparticles can cross the blood-air barrier in lungs, and also easily penetrate animal and plant cells, causing unknown long-term effects. At present, there is no regulation in India related to nanoparticle emissions. There is also a scarcity of studies to inform such potential regulations,” the organisation said.

The study’s findings were shared through a position paper released at the conference which was attended by Ritva Koukku-Ronde, Finland’s Ambassador to India, apart from Reji Mathai, General Manager, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) Research and Development Centre, Faridabad, and others.

“We felt the issue of nano-particles was not on the focus of scientists and policy makers. Biofuels provide us with energy security and have a huge benefit in air quality, but there are also challenges in the kinds of biofuels that we use,” said Ajay Mathur, Director General, TERI.

He said, “We should take the advantage of bringing biofuels in, but do it in a manner that makes sure we do not inject a greater degree of environmental hazard into our lives. This would have technical and policy ramifications.

“Looking at the kind of technical specs we have and the changes in biofuel policy together could help us move ahead in a manner that synergizes benefits and minimizes, or hopefully eliminates, the additional vulnerabilities created.”

The number of registered vehicles in India has increased from 54 million in 2001 to 230 million in 2016.

According to TERI, diesel alone meets an estimated 72 per cent of transport fuel demand in India.

“The Government of India has identified biofuel as one of the potential thrust areas to safeguard energy security and reduce dependency on imported crude oil. Studies around the world have reported a reduction in tailpipe emission from diesel vehicles with 20 per cent blended diesel as compared to conventional diesel,” it said.

In her address at the event, Ambassador Koukku-Ronde said that Finns enjoy the cleanest air in the world.

She added, “Apart from global warming, cities across the world are struggling with air pollution. According to various studies recently, the impact of air pollution on human health is far more dangerous than previously thought.”

“Addressing climate change and air pollution is a huge challenge and a huge opportunity. These problems can only be tackled by working together,” she said.

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