Methanol economy to cut oil import bill by 20%: V.K. Saraswat

New Delhi, Dec 19 : Recommending a big push for "methanol economy", NITI Aayog Member V.K. Saraswat on Tuesday said it would not only curb the rising pollution level due to combustion of petrol and diesel, but would also cut India's oil import bill by at least 20 per cent over the next three years.

He said four task forces to work out details of methanol generation, applications, conversion of machines (engines, generator sets and others) and regulation requirements were working since the last six months and had submitted their reports.

"As things stand now, we are through with research and development, technical and regulatory requirements as well as industrial partnerships.

We are now ready to take up small projects and move up from there," Saraswat told reporters here.

He said a nodal agency would be set up for the implementation of the massive exercise and it would be up and running by the middle of the next year.

"Private companies are ready, we just need to get our act together."

At least Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 crore budgetary support from the government was required to get started and set up one or two methanol generation plants of 1,500 tonnes per day capacity each, he said.

The former Defence Research and Development Organisation chief said the technology to convert high-ash content coal -- which is in abundance in India -- into methanol had already been developed and in fact Indian company L (and) T had already set up nine such plants in China.

"So why can't we do it here?"

"We have had a dialogue with them and they are ready to do it here.

BHEL has also developed technology to generate syngas -- an intermediate product in methanol generation -- from coal."

Saraswat said India had large reserves of high ash content coal which could be used to generate methanol, adding that stranded gas from oil exploration fields, which is usually wasted, could also be converted.

He said methanol was a clean fuel and unlike petrol and diesel, it does not generate particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and NOx.

"Also, being a drop-in fuel, it can directly replace petrol with minor modifications to the engine.

And dimethyl ether, a derivative of methanol, can directly replace diesel," Saraswat said.

He added that methanol and its derivatives could also be used for cooking purposes, and in generator sets and agriculture pumps which currently operate on diesel.

Saraswat said that there were also plans to ensure that all ships used for inland waterways being developed by the Shipping Ministry would run on methanol instead of diesel "since pollution from diesel and heavy oils to the rivers is very high".

He said an exercise to convert a 4000 horse-power diesel railway engine to run on methanol was also going on.

"So our priority now is to push methanol economy in a big way and set up plants to generate methanol using coal, stranded gas and biomass," he said.

He added the NITI Aayog was also mulling setting up a mobile methanol generation plant which could go to agricultural fields and use crop waste to generate methanol and give it to farmers to be used in generator sets.

"We want to do it as a major exercise for those regions" where large-scale crop burnings happen, Saraswat said.

He added that such a technology could also be used to generate methanol from landfill masses using gasification technology and that test-runs for the same were already going on.

"Once we are satisfied, we would approach Delhi government and other state governments to make some investment and give us their landfill sites to generate methanol from them," he said.



Source: IANS