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Biorefinery likely to start production in 2022

By Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, Aug 9 - The biorefinery at Numaligarh, which will produce ethanol and other platform chemicals using bamboo as feedstock, is likely to commence commercial production from 2022. Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL), Finland�s Chempolis Ltd and Finnish energy company Fortum 3 BV had established a joint venture Assam Bio Refinery Private Limited (ABRPL) in 2018 for building and operating the biorefinery.

Chempolis has granted a non-exclusive and non-transferable technology licence to ABRPL to use Chempolis� technology �Formicobio� for the purpose of constructing and operating the biorefinery.

The construction activities started from December 2018 after getting all formal clearances from statutory bodies.

�The construction activity at the site was stopped during lockdown from March 25 to April 20. Construction at the site has again started since April 21 following all necessary guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the State authorities. Currently, around 450 workers are engaged at the construction site and all necessary arrangements are being done to bring project back to its schedule,� an official source said.

The project will utilise 300,000 tonnes of dry bamboo annually and shall produce 49,000 tonnes of ethanol along with other chemicals � acetic acid, furfural and combustible residue in the form of bio-coal and stillages. The bio-coal and other residue of the plant will be used as fuel to produce sufficient steam and electricity required for the plant.

The project cost is estimated at Rs 1,750 crore. The project has received sanction of Rs 150 crore from the Central government under viability gap funding.

The sourcing model envisages direct procurement of bamboo from the growers to eliminate the risk of exploitation of the farmers and growers by middlemen. Also, a robust and digitally enabled bamboo supply chain is being developed to ensure transparency, reliability, and efficiency in the sourcing process.

�ABRPL is in the process of finalising a long term bamboo supply agreement with prospective growers from entire Northeast India, which is likely to be announced soon, once plant commissioning and supply chain process are fine tuned,� officials said.

The biorefinery project aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce crude oil import dependency and achieve forex savings, provide remunerative income to farmers, and create employment opportunities by way of engagement of local population in the region.

The bamboo sourcing model envisages development of several clusters which are rich in bamboo population and are in proximity to the project.

A component of the project is development of more than 50 small scale chipping units along with local level entrepreneurs for storage and chipping of bamboo, before being supplied to the refinery.

�It is expected to provide direct employment to some 2,000 people during construction and 150 during operations. Indirect employment will be generated for about 50,000 people in bamboo plantation and supply chain,� they added.

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