Bio-fuelling a Greener Future
ELGi’s air compressors are aiding the transition to low-carbon fuel alternatives
Picture yourself in this idyllic scene. Taking a drive in the country and drinking in the very elements of nature. The trees, sighing in the breeze, a bubbling brook flowing by the roadside, the air seem seems ripe with the promise of impending rain. You feel at one with the countryside. It’s a pleasant, even beautiful picture isn’t it?
Unfortunately that picture may be nothing more than a lost memory in fifty years time unless we begin to make some serious changes to the way we choose to live. We need to face the unpleasant truth that in the early stages of the 21st century we are addicted to using finite resources – fossil fuels. Almost every aspect of our modern lifestyle is in some way shape or form reliant upon one or more fossil fuel staples – and there will come a time in the not too distant future that will see these non renewable resources run out.
The equation is very simple – we are using fossil fuels at a much faster rate than they form. It takes millions of years for dead plants and animals to break down into recognisable fossil fuels and we are using those resources up rapidly. World consumption of primary energy increased by 10 billion tons in a fifty year span up till 2015 and that increase has been accompanied by an alarming rise in global warming and greenhouse gas issues.
This rapid increase in consumption is due in no small way to the demands of the developing nations as they move to an industrialised world. India is now the third largest consumer of oil. The nation has moved to address its over reliance on oil and is seeking alternate fuel sources. Finding a solution would have great benefits both economically and environmentally.
One fuel that India has spent some time investigating is that of Biofuel. Simply explained these fuels are manufactured using biological means and can be in either solid, liquid or gaseous forms. Perhaps the fuel that has sparked the most interest is a fuel known as Biogas.
The beauty of Biogas as that it can be produced from a range of biological materials, including many waste products. As well as sludge, wastewater and solid waste many agricultural waste products could potentially be used to produce Biogas. This lends itself to the exciting possibility that all farms in India could be energy producers.
Microbes process Biogas to produce a colorless odorless gas called methane. The difficulty with Methane gas is that it is rather difficult to transport. It is more readily transported when highly compressed and this one way that air compressors can help play a role in “greening the economy.”
The Indian state of Gujarat, with assistance from the ministry of New and Renewable Energy has taken a lead role in developing Biogas plants in India. One such plant is located at Vadodora, where six Biogas digesters are in operation. The production process uses a screw air compressor to feed the as into a scrubbing unit to remove any contaminants. ELGi Sauer reciprocating air compressors are used to raise the pure gas pressure to 250 bar. Bottles are used to store the pressurised gas (called bio CNG – compressed natural gas). The Vadadora plant is producing 40 cubic metres of bio-CNG per a tonne of waste. The Vadadora community is benefiting directly as half of the gas produced is used to provide street lighting. The rest is provided to a mix of retailing, industrial and transportation applications.
Bio-CNG can be made available commercially at a fraction of the cost of Natural Gas and is amazingly similar in chemical composition and energy potential. The potential economic benefits of mass production of Bio-CNG are exciting and possibly liberating for a developing economy like India’s.
Awareness of the benefits of Bio-CNG is spreading throughout India. With this awareness, more positive initiatives are being undertaken.
The Indian dairy cooperative Amul Dairy was the first Indian food company to build a fully operational Bio-CNG generating and bottling plant. While in Kolkata, a 55 seat biogas bus was recently launched. The bus runs on cow dung and citizens are charged ₹1 per ride.
They may seem like little baby steps, but the trend is clear. Ever so slowly we are transitioning to a cleaner greener nation and it seems that biogas is going to be one of the fuels that enables us to do so. It is not that hard to look a little forward in to the future and envisage a trip into the country using a biogas powered car.