Numaligarh Refinery to tap N-E's bamboo resources to make ethanol

The Numaligarh Refinery Ltd in Assam hopes to produce 60 million litres of ethanol every year by using abundant bamboo available in the region to boost biofuel use for cutting down crude imports.

The state-run refiner plans to set up a $200-million joint venture with Finnish technology firm Chempolis Oy to crush bamboo, the longest of the grass family, to produce ethanol.
This way the refinery will be able to produce enough ethanol to meet mandatory blending requirements for gasoline in the entire northeastern region.
The eight N-E states account for about two-thirds of India’s total bamboo production.
“Bamboo is in abundance in the northeastern states. It grows everywhere,” said the refiner’s managing director SK Barua in New Delhi. “It will be a game changer for us and for the country.”
To keep up with the country’s surging demand for the fuel, the government is looking at options to keep oil imports under check. Modi is also trying to fulfill his pledge of meeting a 10-per cent reduction in the nation’s energy imports by 2022.
Oil companies in India have also been investing in biofuel refineries to boost ethanol production from non-molasses sources such as agricultural residues and municipal waste. With government support, the biofuel industry in the country is set to grow into a $15 billion market by 2020.
The usage of ethanol in the country has been slow to pick up with just 2.1 per cent of gasoline is being blended with ethanol, while very little biodiesel is mixed with diesel. The goal this year is 5 per cent blending for both.
“Bamboo will play a role in India’s energy security and promote green fuel use,” Barua said. “It will be the first experiment, but it’s not a complicated project.”