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Sandeep Chaturvedi, President, Biodiesel Association of India

13 Apr 2015

Biodiesel industry needs level playing field for its growth.

While the government is working to grow country’s economy while keeping its sustainable development agenda intact, President Biodiesel Association of India, Sandeep Chaturvedi throws light on key issues affecting the industry such as supply-side scalability including regulatory approvals for large-scale processing, collection and adulteration-prevention mechanisms related to inedible oil crops, etc. Chaturvedi spoke to InfralinePlus on issues that are impacting the growth of biodiesel industry and possible solutions. Excerpts..

Despite being a clean fuel bio diesel has not found its due place in country’s mass transport sector. What are the challenges faced by the Indian bio diesel industry?

The fuel sector is controlled and directly under the monitoring of the government. The control order for MS/HSD of 2005 by MOPNG and the national Biofuels policy of 2009 exclusively mandate OMC and make all other sales illegal. Even though biodiesel is clean fuel it is yet to get full approvals from the government. While biodiesel is being exported from India and consumed in Europe but it is yet to attain the same scale and treatment within the country.

What are the probable sustainable solutions available to promote bio fuel? How would it help the industry?

The first steps taken by the present day government are welcome, the government is working in the direction of removing the marketing hurdles that exist today. Bulk consumers like railways, defence, state road transport corporations should start consumption. This would help set up the various quality standards, handling systems required by various consumers within the country.

How have things changed with the new leadership at the center? What are your expectations from the government?

The government is very clear in terms of the national policies and renewable fuels are the prime focus. The leadership is target driven and continuously monitoring the stated goals. This makes the entire policy implementation process simple and transparent. There is also a clarity and pragmatic approach in the present government which should lead to timely and appropriate implementation.

Can you throw some light on the raw material availability in the country? How soon can it be scaled up to meet increased demand?

Current raw material that can be used in India are predominantly byproducts of edible oil refining. There are no other raw materials available. Further due the export tax of the edible oil producing countries, refining in India is likely to come down. Thus there is likely to be an import of raw materials for feedstock. Thus appropriate import norms for biodiesel manufacture to be looked at.

Apart from the transport sector, what other industries and sectors can bio diesel benefit?

The industrial application like usages in all stationery applications like boilers and Diesel generation sets, telecom tower companies. There are also other biodiesel uses like additives for textile and lubrication industry.

Given increased production of bio fuel how would the industry ensure smooth distribution set up, both for domestic users and for exports?

Exports are already being done so these will continue. In order to promote domestic usages we should have a stepwise time bound approach starting with bulk users like the railways and State road transport. Institutional systems are required to establish the required standards of blending and certifications and so on.

What is the current production capacity of the Indian bio fuel industry? What kind of investments would be required to supply clean fuel if the government mandates five percent blending?

The current production is 0.50 million tons. The installed capacity is 1.2 million tons. As the domestic market improves, so will the capacity and investments. The consumption of diesel is about 70 mn tons per year. As per government mandate of 20% by 2017 we will need about 16mn tons installed capacity hence larger investments and newer technologies.

Do you think industry should spend more on R & D to reduce input cost further? Also share with us the current R & D spend on bio fuel?

There is an absolute need to invest in R&D for more sustainable sources of biodiesel feedstock. This will include crops with high oil yields, gmo or non gmo, purely for fuel use and also other options like algae etc. companies like HPCL, IOCL RIL and several other companies have already invested into field trails of oil seed crops. They should be encouraged.