Factors to Consider When Setting up a Bio-CNG Plant?

Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz in the alternative energy industry surrounding bio-CNG (compressed natural gas). This topic hits close to home for me because I have a vivid memory of our family home having a dung-based bio-CNG system to generate energy for cooking. Since then, a lot has surely changed to the point where we don’t even use it anymore. At the time, I never realized it held so much significance. However, now I do.
India has witnessed a significant rise in the number of bio-CNG plants and production in recent years. Why? To lessen the natural gas imports and attain energy security.

According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, as of March 2021, the country has over 200 operational bio-CNG plants with a total production capacity of around 400,000 metric tonnes per annum. Today, the majority of these plants are located in UP and Gujarat.

Source credit: CAG
Now, let’s briefly look more about it.

What is Bio-CNG?

Bio-CNG plants are a type of CNG (compressed natural gas) plant that uses biomass as the feedstock. Biomass is essentially any organic material that can be converted into energy, including agricultural waste, sewage sludge and animal manure. The benefits of using bio-CNG in your vehicle include:

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels;
  • A renewable source of fuel; and
  • The ability to use waste products as an alternative fuel source.

How is Bio-CNG produced?

The process of producing Bio-CNG involves two main steps which are:

1. The first step is the decomposition of organic waste in an oxygen-free environment through a process called anaerobic digestion. This process produces biogas, which is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide.

2. The second step is the purification of the biogas through a process called upgrading, which removes impurities such as carbon dioxide and moisture, leaving behind pure methane gas.

The purified methane gas is then compressed and stored as Bio-CNG, which can be used as a clean and renewable fuel for transportation, cooking, and heating.

Read this blog also: Bio-CNG: A Stubble Burning Alternative and Lifesaver Of Air

Factors to consider before setting up a Bio-CNG plant

Setting up a bio-cng plant is not easy. In fact, it requires careful consideration of several factors before taking the plunge. A long list follows, read it out.

1. Raw Material Availability

  • Type of feedstock: The availability and suitability of different types of feedstock should be considered, such as agricultural residues, food waste, and animal waste.
  • Quantity and quality: The availability of sufficient quantities of high-quality feedstock should be ensured for sustainable production, as it can possibly cause disruption and affect profitability during shortages.

2. Location

  • Proximity to raw material source: The plant should be located near the raw material source to minimize transportation costs and reduce environmental impact. Also, it is advisable that the plant should be situated within a 15-kilometer radius of the readily available biomass as they are not economically viable due to their low energy content per volume and huge quantity.
  • Access to infrastructure: The plant should have access to essential infrastructure, such as water, electricity, and gas supply.
3. Technology
  • Choice of technology: The technology used for producing Bio-CNG should be chosen based on the feedstock and desired output.
  • Efficiency and reliability: The technology should be efficient, reliable, and easy to maintain to ensure the smooth operation of the plant.
4. Capacity
  • Market demand: The plant’s capacity should be aligned with the market demand for the product to avoid overcapacity or under-capacity issues.
  • Scale of operation: The scale of the plant should be considered, which can vary from small-scale to large-scale production.
5. Regulatory Compliances
  • Permits and regulations: The plant should comply with the relevant local and national regulations and permits related to environmental, safety, and quality standards.
  • Compliance costs: The cost of complying with regulations and permits should be factored into the financial viability of the project.
6. Financial Viability
  • Capital investment: The cost of setting up the plant should be carefully assessed, including the cost of land, building, equipment, and labor.
  • Operating costs: The plant’s operating costs, including feedstock procurement, production, and maintenance costs, should be analyzed.
  • Revenue generation: The revenue generation potential of Bio-CNG, including market demand and pricing, should be evaluated to ensure the plant’s financial viability.

Government’s take on Bio-CNG

India’s reliance on imported natural gas has reduced significantly in the current financial year. According to recent data from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the country’s import dependency based on consumption has dropped from 48.2% in the financial year 2021-22 to 46.3% in the financial year 2022-23 (April to October).
The Indian government is making significant efforts to promote the domestic development of biogas and biofuels through various initiatives and schemes.
The National Biogas and Manure Management Programme (NBMMP) is one such central government initiative that provides financial assistance for the construction of biogas plants.
The government provides subsidies and incentives for setting up biogas plants, which vary from state to state. These subsidies cover a percentage of the capital cost, and incentives can come in the form of tax rebates, soft loans, or feed-in tariffs.
For instance, Uttar Pradesh has recently released an ambitious bioenergy policy that promises a Rs 75 lakh incentive per tonne of Bio-CNG production.
Overall, the country is making steady progress towards achieving energy security and self-sufficiency in the natural gas sector. Hence, make sure to utilize all the resources provided by the government to set up the biogas plant.

Conclusive thoughts

India has the potential to revolutionize its energy sector by harnessing the power of bio-CNG. This eco-friendly fuel source is produced from organic waste and has the potential to power everything from cars and buses to generators and cooking stoves.
The Indian government is actively promoting the development of bio-CNG, providing subsidies and incentives to encourage its adoption. In fact, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari says that India has the potential to set up at least 5,000 bio-CNG manufacturing units. With its abundant supply of organic waste and the rising demand for sustainable energy, bio-CNG is poised to become a game-changer in India’s quest for energy security and environmental sustainability.
The potential of bio-CNG is enormous, and it’s only a matter of time before it takes center stage as the fuel of the future.

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