What Goes Around Comes Around

The circular advantage of CBG

Aashish Maheshwari, Associate Business Director – High-Performance Polymers, Evonik India

The world is changing and so is the way of business. Today, companies no more just look at squeezing costs, driving volumes and tapping resources. Instead, they are keen on rethinking their business models and operations to make them “future proof” and a fit into the “circular economy”.

A circular economy can best be explained through the phrase – “what goes around comes around.” However, in this case what comes around is in the form of a net zero mission, zero waste and happy customers and a sustainable planet.

Let us decode what we just read. And for that let us first understand about compressed biogas (CBG). CBG is a by-product produced from bio-mass feedstock such as agricultural waste, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plants and among others. The degeneration of organic waste is acted upon by anaerobic bacteria which releases biogas as a by-product. This biogas is then treated further to get pure CBG, the gas that has the potential to replace compressed natural gas (CNG) and be a strong contender as the green fuel for transportation, power generation and household cooking.

India being a predominantly agricultural economy, biomass is available in abundance from livestock rearing and farms. The country is also among the top waste producers in the world, thanks to the lack of infrastructure, initiatives and awareness towards better food management, waste management and alternative energy sources.

According to Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), around 40 per cent of the food produced in India is wasted every year due to inefficient supply chains and fragmented food systems. As per the data available on GIS-based Waste Mapping Tool, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India generates a total of 623 million TPA of solid waste and 20,395 million cu.m. of liquid waste. These are waste predominantly generated from farms, sewages, fruit and vegetable raw and processing, distilleries, and sugarcane mills, among others. This waste has the potential to create 43,737 TPD of bio-CNG and 9,116 MW of energy generation.

Now the question arises how CBG can create a circular advantage? The answer lies in the process itself.

CBG can be a game changer in transforming the ecosystem and creating value from waste. It can resolve many challenges faced by India including air pollution due to stubble burning of crop residues, throwing of untreated sewage waste from urban cities into water bodies, and food and produce waste from farms, supply chains, restaurants and households that end up either into landfills or left to rot in open spaces. It can also significantly reduce India’s dependency on crude oil imports.

Be it value creation at the waste segregation level or at the recycling unit that converts waste into energy, CBG has the potential to create an entire value chain led by economic and environmental advantages. Hence, realising the circular advantage.

As per the data available on GIS-based Waste Mapping Tool, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, India generates a total of 623 million TPA of solid waste and 20,395 million cu.m. of liquid waste. These are waste predominantly generated from farms, sewages, fruit and vegetable raw and processing, distilleries, and sugarcane mills, among others. This waste has the potential to create 43,737 TPD of bio-CNG and 9,116 MW of energy generation.

After it is treated and purified at the plants, CBG can be piped back to settlements to fire their cooking units, supplied to fuel outlets to run vehicles, used as an energy source for power generation, and utilised by farmlands to pump water into farms, illumination and running equipment.

Moreover, the solid by-product left behind during the process of purifying biogas can be used as bio-manure. With zero chemicals, bio-manure is a boon for farmers as it can enhance farm yield and improve crop quality. There has been a rising awareness among people about the benefits of organic produce, and the government has been encouraging farmers, entrepreneurs and large businesses to look at bio-mass a key source of energy and its input for organic farming as well as an additional source of income. In the latest Budget 2022-23, the government has announced promotion of chemical free natural farming along the 5 km wide corridors along the river Ganga. It also emphasised on better management of produce post-harvest and agricultural residue (parali).

According to the government data, the market for organic products has now reached Rs 110 billion, with exports more than doubled in the last six years to Rs 70 billion. With India seen as the food bowl for the world and food security a key aspect, CBG can be an enabler with its multiple advantages to the nation.

The Government of India under its various initiatives has been encouraging a circular economy environment with push towards greener fuels. The Net Zero Mission by 2070, Swaach Bharat Abhiyaan, Doubling Farmer Income and SATAT (Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation) are all aligned towards creating a circular impact.

CBG can pave the way towards healthier, cleaner and Aatmanirbhar Bharat, and Swachtha with value for all.

According to the government data, the market for organic products has now reached Rs 110 billion, with exports more than doubled in the last six years to Rs 70 billion. With India seen as the food bowl for the world and food security a key aspect, CBG can be an enabler with its multiple advantages to the nation.

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