Biogas: Lurking in the world of the unaware

The breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen is what biogas is all about, but it seems, the manufacturers of these plants are longing for a lifeline.

Published: 29th October 2013 10:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th October 2013 10:47 AM   |  A+A-

Biogas

If god created, he also ensured that his creation is destroyed too. When man creates, he often has an emotional connect with his creation; an artist, for example, may not like to see his creation destroyed. But then, there are several of man’s creation, which becomes his responsibility to destroy.

Foremost is the waste that he creates. The creation of waste has led to several rounds of hullabaloo recently in Bangalore. Figures like 8000 tonnes per day were common. Today, probably it is just a figure lying somewhere; the waste still lying everywhere.

“If every household takes the responsibility, the mess can be avoided,” has now become a cliche. And that is why many of the biogas plant manufacturers are worried about.

While the chunk of their business comes from corporate houses, the city’s Biogas manufacturers state that if as a community, Bangalore comes forward to ‘biogas’ their creation, it would be environmental bliss and in business terms, add to their pockets.

“The awareness is very poor among the educated Bangalorean. And that is because they tend to keep the backyard clean and feel that it is somebody else’s responsibility to clean the public space. Also people have a lot of misconception about the cost and space required to set up a biogas plant. Finally, it all boils down to a man’s will and that is terribly missing,” says Col K C Achappa, vice president, Mailhem Engineers, which manufactures biogas plants of various tonnages.

Understanding the math: Apart from the unwillingness and ignorance, yes, it is the cost which is definitely a factor. According to Col Achappa, while there are many portable biogas plants available for an individual household, it may currently not be very viable, but for an apartment, there are many cost effective options available in the market.

Then there is another issue of understanding the statistics. For Kishore Vardharajan, a resident of Kaggadasapura, which is currently a hub of development irrespective of lack of water, he never got the math. “Tell me if this makes sense to you. Use waste from your kitchen to generate biogas at a cost of `23,500 per unit. 125 kg of waste can produce 37.5 KWA of power. 1 cubic metre of biogas plant can give 2-3 hours of gas. Half kilogram of waste gives 1.5 to 2 hours of gas. 1 cubic metre of biogas plant is equivalent to 7 to 8 kg per month equivalent of LPG. If LPG gas suppliers too come up with such figures, I guess Bangalore will soon be cooking with Kerosene,” he says satirically.

So what exactly will be the cost of setting up a biogas plant? According to Col Achappa, the cost for setting up a 500 kg plant which can cater to about 1000 flats will be `18-20 lakhs.

“It will treat waste at source, will abide by the pollution control board’s norms, and produce gas which can be used in the club houses or other common areas. But this may not be economically viable to produce electricity. For that, a plant which is 1 tonne and above is required and the cost would be `26-28 lakhs,” he says.

Government’s priority: There is also the issue of subsidy which unfortunately has not found priority in the government of Karnataka’s agenda. Says Shristi Jaiswal, business development manager with Synod Biosciences, a Kerala based biogas manufacturing company, “The Kerala government gives 15-20 per cent subsidy, while there is no subsidy given by the government of Karnataka.”

No space: Another challenge that these manufacturers face is the planning by builders. According to Achappa, for a biogas plant, at least 30ftx30ft needs to be earmarked, but the builders never consider this aspect.

Why corporate friendly?: So how do corporates welcome these manufacturers. Well, it seems that it is all about law enforcement and corporate social responsibility.  While there is no law enforcement which fines and jails a housewife for not segregating garbage or throwing it into a common pile nor does she come under the CSR bracket, corporates have to oblige. One is their profile of being into CSR which enhances the image of the company, the other is that to get to the revered ISO of any number, they have to be environmentally conscious.

So, it is obvious that most corporates boast of having biogas plants or other environmental friendly modules of treating waste and controlling pollution.

At the end of it, it seems, biogas as a word will, for the time being, remain in the world of the unaware.

 

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Biogas can help reduce Fiscal Deficits 

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