India’s maiden bio-diesel pump to start in September

August 8th, 2008 - 12:34 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Narendra Modi
By Rafat Quadri
Ahmedabad, Aug 8 (IANS) In winter 2005, Chief Minister Narendra Modi was at the Gujarat Agriculture University campus in Navsari, riding a tractor with a difference - it ran on bio-diesel. Come September, that bio-diesel will be available at a pump for the first time in India. The bio-diesel production, from Jatropha plants, is the brainchild of 40-year-old Dharmendra Parekh, chairman and managing director of Aditya Aromedic and Bio-Energy. Since April, the firm has been producing bio-diesel from the jatropha plant.

Registered in 2005 and set up with a capital outlay of Rs.50 million, the company produces 17,000 litres of bio-diesel per day at its 140,000-sq. ft plant located in Tarsadi village on the Navsari-Bardoli highway in Navsari district.

The bio-diesel is sold at Rs.38.90 per litre while the price of regular diesel is Rs.39.20 per litre and that of premium diesel Rs.40.40.

The firm has been pre-selling its entire output every day since April. “We don’t have to do any marketing. On the contrary I take a deposit of Rs.500,000 from all my customers and everyone irrespective of the quantity purchased has to pay the full amount in advance. And the delivery is done only after 20 days,” says Parekh.

“I have at least five customers waiting in the queue, each of whom has a daily requirement of over 500 tonnes of bio-diesel.” Right now, the fuel is supplied from two depots - one at Navsari and other at Mehsana in north Gujarat.

The clientele is spread over Ahmedabad, Nadiad, Vadodara and north Gujarat, Mumbai and Delhi.

Importantly, diesel vehicles do not need to modify their engines to use bio-diesel. “I have been using my own bio-diesel in my Tata Indica diesel car for the past nine months and it runs very smoothly and also gives me a mileage of 21 to 22 km on the highway,” says Parekh, a graduate in computer science and a master in bio-informatics.

“There is no problem at all even if you keep on changing the fuel from regular diesel to bio-diesel.”

Parekh also claims that his bio-diesel was much better in quality than most of the premium diesel brands being hawked by the oil majors.

The hardy jatropha plant is resistant to drought and pests. It produces seeds containing up to 40 percent oil. When the seeds are crushed and processed, the resulting oil can be used in a standard diesel engine, while the residue can also be processed into biomass to generate electricity.

To ensure a steady supply of jatropha, Parekh has entered into a contract with 1,500 farmers of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. These farmers plant Jatropha in the periphery of their fields so that the normal food chain is not disturbed. Over 300 hectares of land have been brought under Jatropha cultivation.

“In a jatropha plantation you get your break-even within three years and the plant makes money for you for the next 40 years,” says Parekh. He has prepared a plantation manual for jatropha farmers.

The most important aspect of jatropha is that it can grow on soil otherwise considered a wasteland.

Parekh has a huge first-mover advantage in this field. But it’s not a smooth ride all the way. “It is a very hard and complicated thing, especially the procurement of raw materials,” he says. “You have to plan out each and everything in such a manner that the fuel you produce becomes commercially viable.”

The company has a staff strength of 200. Crude, glycerine and de-oiled cakes are the by-products. The company is now preparing a blueprint to extract biogas from the de-oiled cakes, leaving manure as the last residue. The company plans to use this biogas for power generation.

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