FINANCE Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech in parliament earmarked Rs 10,000 crore from the Union Budget for 2023-24 towards setting-up of 200 Compressed Biogas (CBG) plants and 300 community and cluster based biogas plants in the country. The Minister also announced duty cuts for certain blended fuels. The Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL), Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) are some of the companies who plan to invest more for setting up the CBG plants. The Union Finance Minister said that under Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan- also called GOBAR -Dhan scheme Compressed Biogas (CBG) plants will be established for promoting a circular economy. These will include 200 compressed biogas plants and 300 community or cluster-based plants with a total investment of Rs 10,000 crore.
What is Compressed Biogas (CBG)?
CBG is a mixture of various hydrocarbon gases, produced by decomposition of animal and plant waste which consists mainly of Methane.This is further processed and compressed for use as fuel. CBG is chemically similar to CNG, and hence can be used to replace CNG as transportation fuel.CNG and CBG are both methane based gases. CNG, like gasoline, comes from underground, while CBG is made from fermented waste or other biological material, thus making it a CO2 neutral fuel.
Biofuel such as Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) is being advocated by the government as an alternate source of fuel. This is known as SATAT (Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation) which is an initiative of the Government of India to promote and adoption CBG by collaborating with oil marketing Public Sector Undertakings -PSUs like HPCL, BPCL,IOC to issue Expression of Interest (EOI) to entrepreneurs to set up CBG plants as a viable alternative to conventional fuels. This alternative source of energy is chosen by the Govt because the Biogas is produced naturally through a process of anaerobic decomposition from waste/biomass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plant waste etc. After purification, the said gas is compressed and stored and that is why it is called compressed biogas-CBG.
Compressed Biogas-CBG is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential. With calorific value (~52,000 KJ/kg) and other properties similar to CNG, Compressed Biogas can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive fuel. Given the abundance of biomass in India, Compressed Biogas-CBG has the potential to replace Compressed Natural Gas-CNG in automotive, industrial and commercial uses in the coming years.The potential for Compressed Biogas production from various sources in India is estimated at about 62 million tonnes per annum. Through the SATAT, the government plans to set up 5,000 CBG plants by 2024 and incur an expenditure of INR 75,000 crore towards setting up the city gas distribution networks for CBG. The SATAT initiative envisages the production of 15 million tonnes of CBG on an annual basis, which is equivalent to 40% of the nation’s CNG consumption.
CBG and its future in J&K
There is a huge potential to produce CBG in Jammu & Kashmir as well. The organic waste lifted from fruit mandis is dumped unscientifically in landfill sites which not only causes pungent smell but is choking our landfill sites as well. At a time when the land is shrinking day by day especially in a place like Kashmir valley and with no land mass even to set up new landfill sites by municipal institutions, I believe setting up CBG plants in fruit mandis of Srinagar, Jammu, Sopore, Shopian and Kulgam is much needed.
In addition, the agricultural residue, cattle dung and biodegradable municipal solid waste (MSW) can also be converted into CBG on a commercial scale across India including J&K as well.
India’s commitments on reducing fossil fuel
In November last year, the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt hosted the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 27) at Sharm El Sheikh with a view to building on previous successes and paving the way for future ambition to effectively tackle the global challenge of climate change. The COP27 climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, concluded with a historic breakthrough to help vulnerable countries deal with losses and damages from the impacts of climate change. At COP 26 in Glasgow, India, as part of its five-point pledges, committed to net zero transmissions by 2070. The government ratified two additional components to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). First, it aspires to enhance its 2015 commitment to reducing emissions intensity, or the amount of emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP), by 45% from 2005 levels by 2030. Besides that, the government is expected to supply 50% of its power requirements using non-fossil fuel renewable energy sources, up from the 40% pledged at the Paris Agreement.
The Indian delegation announced its key commitments for COP27 based on “action in climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building.” Indian representatives of multilateral organizations (including the UN, UNDP, and UNFCCC), the Government of India, NGOs, and other key stakeholders harmonized for concessional and climate-specific grants, progress towards target of mobilization of $100 billion annually, a new collective quantified goal (NCQG) on climate finance and the need to specify the quantity of long-term finance in trillions, the quality of this finance and its scope as well as ease of access to finance and with methods of tracking flows of such finance in a transparent manner.”
While India explicitly conveyed that its coal transition will not be adopted before 2024, Prayaas Se Prabhaav Tak – ‘From Mindless Consumption to Mindful Utilization’ was published by prominent dignitaries from UNEP, UNDP, and UNFCCC along with Minister of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MOEFCC) Mr Bhupender Yadav. The compendium suggests frameworks for behavior modification that can aid in the creation of laws that promote sustainable production and consumption all around the world.
Waste to Energy
To address the menace of municipal solid waste and to decongest the Achan Saidapora landfill site in Srinagar, around 5 years back, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) passed an order to set up waste to energy plants near the Achan Saidapora landfill site. NGT had directed the Chief Secretary of J&K to ensure compliance to the cabinet order dated October 23rd 2017, on setting up of the waste to energy plant which would not only reduce the waste but would give an alternate source of energy to generate electricity. It is now almost 5 years, yet, the order of the NGT and J&K cabinet has not been implemented on the ground and the 450 MTs of waste is dumped in Srinagar city on a daily basis and most of it goes untreated.
Srinagar city is sitting on a literal volcano of waste. As the Govt of India is now seriously looking into investments in alternative energy sources like CBG, it is the duty of J&K Govt to make the waste to energy plant in Srinagar operational.
Setting up CBG plants or any other source will not only give us clean energy free from carbon emissions but will ensure responsible waste management as well. More use of CBG as an alternative source of fuel will be a great support to national commitments made by India at international forums like the UN in achieving climate change goals. As a huge budgetary allocation of Rs 10,000 Crores has been made by Govt of India, it is now the duty of state Govts and Union Territories especially Jammu & Kashmir administration to motivate investors and even local businessmen to set up CBG plants across J&K.