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VERBIO India holds Grand Opening of first bioCNG plant

VERBIO India holds Grand Opening of first bioCNG plant
Claus Sauter (left) CEO of VERBIO with Bhagwant Mann, Chief Minister of the State of Punjab Mr. Bhagwant Mann at the Grand Opening Ceremony of VERBIO India's first bioCNG plant. Held on October 18, 2022, the event was also officiated by the participation of Hardeep Puri, Honorable Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Aman Arora, Minister of New and Renewable Energy of Punjab (photo courtesy VERBIO).

VERBIO India Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture between Germany-headed independent biofuels major VERBIO Vereinigte BioEnergy AG (VERBIO) and India’s largest integrated and diversified energy company IndianOil Corporation Ltd (IOCL), has held a Grand Opening Ceremony of VERBIO's first and India's to date largest bioCNG plant.

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In August 2021, IndianOil (IOCL) and VERBIO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore the possibility of creating a Joint Venture company for the purpose of deploying VERBIO’s technology and experience in setting up and operating biomethane, ethanol, and biodiesel plants in India and marketing these biofuels via IndianOil’s network.

In April 2022, the VERBIO India Lehragaga plant began producing compressed biomethane (bioCNG) using primarily rice paddy straw, that typically (and illegally) is burnt by farmers after the rice harvest, and on October 18, 2022, the official Grand Opening Ceremonies were held in Chandigarh and at the plant site in Lehragaga, State of Punjab.

An aerial view of the VERBIO India Lehragaga bioCNG plant in Punjab that entered commercial operations in April 2022 (photo courtesy VERBIO).

This is the first plant for VERBIO in India, as well as the largest of its kind in India, and Asia to date.

The Lehragaga facility has the capacity to process up to 100 000 tonnes of agricultural residues per annum and will have a production capacity of 33 tonnes per day (TPD) of bioCNG (CBG) and 650 TPD of bio-manure.

IOCL is now supplying bioCNG into its filling station retail network for automotive applications in the Punjab region.

According to the company, this facility provides:

  • a significant relief in air pollution due to reduced straw/stubble burning within a radius of at least 10 km;
  • large savings for farmers as the entire straw collection is conducted at no cost to them;
  • the creation of jobs and economic development for rural communities
    the realistic prospect of improving soil health with the introduction of bio-manure; and
  • climate-friendly and cost-effective fuel for automotive, industrial, and commercial consumers.

SATAT program

The VERBIO India plant is the largest to be commissioned under the Indian government’s Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) initiative since the launch of the program in October 2018.

VERBIO was one of the first participants in the SATAT initiative.

Using proven VERBIO technology that has been developed and commercialized successfully over the last 20 years, our first bioCNG unit in Asia is not only state-of-the-art but also an example that others may wish to follow as India tackles the challenges of stubble burning and supporting farmers and rural communities while implementing responsible environmental and energy policies said Claus Sauter, CEO of VERBIO during the opening event.

Bales of rice paddy straw (photo courtesy VERBIO).

The facility is also one of the first to make use of paddy straw which is otherwise burnt by farmers causing unmitigated health problems and environmental pollution thereby addressing not only the challenges of energy security but also the environmental concerns of the region.

VERBIO says that it is “looking forward to expanding and building more plants around the country, particularly in the Northern States of India where there is an abundance of agricultural residues.”

In India, we are entering a growth market for renewable energy with very large potential. Here in particular there are currently major challenges, as the Indian government has a very strong influence in the energy market overall. We are holding constructive talks with officials at the highest government levels in order to ensure that the regulatory framework becomes more favorable to the targeted expansion of advanced biofuels in order to define the framework needed for further growth, explained Claus Sauter.

Such investment expansion will be triggered by the establishment of a stable business case which is still in the development stage, and VERBIO says that it is keen “to support the dialogue with constructive policy inputs which will be extremely beneficial for the development of this sector in Punjab.

With this first-of-its-kind CBG project in India, VERBIO has demonstrated that the problem of stubble burning can be tamed by innovative technology. We intend to multiply this technology in Punjab and across India. We are thankful to the Central and Punjab State Governments for their professional and continuous support. Furthermore, we very much appreciate the excellent cooperation with the local farmers of Punjab. VERBIO truly stands for making a progressive change and creating regional economic prosperity for Punjab and India, said Ashish Kumar, Managing Director of VERBIO India.

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