Source : Sheri Sundeep
India’s search for fuel in the face of rising oil prices
Armstrong Vaz, 23 February 2008, Saturday
Global warming is engulfing the biosphere at a rapid pace, setting in motion strange climatic changes. Humans are paying the price of messing with the environment over the centuries, while continuing to do so.
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GLOBAL WARMING is engulfing the biosphere at a rapid pace, setting in motion strange climatic changes. Humans are paying the price of messing with the environment over the centuries, while continuing to do so.
Pollution levels are at an all-time high in India’s capital, Delhi, with other metro regions like Mumbai and Kolkata vying for second place.
The increasing industrial and residential use of diesel generators is adding to the global warm up, even at the village level, while the search for alternative fuels continues unabated.
The cultivation of the jatropha plant in the Western states of Goa and Maharashtra and dhaincha in Bihar is increasingly being promoted as promising an alternative to diesel fuel in India.
In Goa, bio-diesel derived from jatropha curcas, locally known as ‘erond’, is becoming more widespread. Fr Inacio Almeida, of Pilar, Goa, runs the nature farm of the society of Pilar (or society of the missionaries of St Francis Xavier) and is a leading populariser of jatropha as a feedstock for the production of bio diesel. jatropha until recently was routinely used as stumps for damming paddy fields and orchards.
“One litre of fuel can be extracted from three kilograms of jatropha seeds,” says Fr Almeida. Among the developments he envisions is for “each village in Goa to have its own jatropha plantation and extraction machinery.”
Generators using refined diesel have lately been resorted to by householders, as well as small businesses, in Goa, in lieu of tapping into an increased central electrical generating capacity. This reliance is expected to change in the next few years, as jatropha bio diesel starts to predominate.
Kanti Naik runs a small ice cream parlour in Assolna village, in South Goa. As elsewhere in Goa, the power supply here is undependable, so he relies for backup power on a small, portable diesel generator worth Rs 10,000. Nearby, Alexander Barbosa also has recourse to a similar diesel generator for his cold-storage meat warehouse.
For these two businessmen the diesel generator has become a necessity, and increasing numbers of Goan householders have been using them to power their TV sets.
“For many villages it’s a case of either clean air or television,” says Nandita Mongia, chief of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Regional Energy Programme for Asia and the Pacific.
Figures arrived at by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), in New Delhi, point to a mushrooming of the number of these diesel generators throughout India.
The diesel-powered generator has been a hit with people across the country.
A litre of refined diesel costs Rs 13, whereas petrol is Rs 50. Pretty cheap, compared to Western countries, given that India is not a major producer of oil.
India imports most of its petroleum products, which are heavily subsidised before they reach the retail market, especially gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene.
In neighbouring Maharashtra, the state government plans to allocate 30,000 hectares or 74,000 acres for jatropha cultivation to private sector business. For example, Reliance Industries is looking to the state to provide land for jatropha cultivation. As a public sector investment, the Maharashtra government plans to cultivate jatropha on 60,000 hectares or 148,000 acres of state-owned land.
In Bihar, the small village of Baharbari, sandwiched between Nepal and Bangladesh, has taken the lead in using another alternative fuel, dhaincha, a weed that provides a source of biomass, taking the place of wood from shrubs and trees. This is a project that has attracted World Bank support, as offering a cheaper source of electricity compared with diesel.
A challenge to be overcome in popularising alternative energy sources is getting the message across to the masses, which requires a sustained campaign by local leaders acting through religious institutions and schools to educate the younger generation.
If dhaincha and jatropha meet even one per cent of India’s growing fuel needs, then this will be a great achievement.
Four final-year students of the Hirasugar Institute of Technology, Belgaum, in the Southern state of Karnataka, have designed and fabricated an ingenious “Bio-Diesel Processor” for the extraction of bio diesel from jatropha seeds. The foursome of Vainath Patil, Vishwanath Khambi, Shridha Patil and Mitra used the fuel to run the college water pump.
Trial runs of jatropha bio diesel after etherification have shown it to be eco-friendly, giving an extra “mileage” of two kilometres (1.25 miles) vs refined diesel.
It costs at least INR 10 (US$ 0.23) less than conventional fuel, and the emissions do not contain carbon monoxide.