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India – Praj opens cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant

Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister – Road Transport, Highways and Shipping, inaugurated Praj Industries cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant near Pune, Maharashtra on 4th May.

Claimed to be India’s first integrated biorefinery, it is built on the company’s proprietary process conversion technology – “enfinity’’.

The demonstration plant has the capacity to produce 1 million litres of ethanol annually from a variety of biomass such as rice and wheat straw, cotton, bagasse, corn cobs and stover.

Research is underway to further expand the pipeline of other renewable fuels and chemicals to be produced from this technology platform, Praj Industries said.

Cumulative investment for the cellulosic ethanol technology is put at INRs 1.5 bln-1.75 bln (US$23.3 mln-27.2 mln). The company said this investment was done through internal accruals and has vested over the last seven years.

One of the primary reasons why ethanol blending in India has been stuck below 4% is the unavailability of suitable raw materials, as the first generation plants were over-reliant on sugarcane residue.

Exploitation of cellulosic feedstock has the potential to expand ethanol production in the country.

Praj Industries has signed MoUs with Indian Oil Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd to be their technology partners for certain projects.

In the first phase, 10-12 second generation ethanol projects are being planned across the country, each at a capital expenditure of INR6 bln (US$93.3 mln) and average capacity to 100,000 litre of ethanol per day.

The company hopes to get about 40% of the project cost as revenue to provide technology know-how and other services.

Pramod Chaudhari, executive chairman, Praj Industries said this technology has great potential to boost to rural economy and create employment.