Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sweet fuel to motor Bihars growth dreams

t could be a strange coincidence that when Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat launched ethanol-blended petrol in Delhi on Tuesday, Bihar also chipped in with its share of ‘sweet dreams’. The state’s two sugar mills supplied around one lakh litres of ethanol to the oil companies for being mixed with petrol.

“This is the first step towards gradually reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and increasing the use of alternative fuels that are renewable,” Bihar Sugarcane Minister Nitish Mishra said on Tuesday.

Ethanol is an organic fuel derived from sugarcane and molasses. Bihar is one of the states which has been allowed to add five per cent of ethanol as additive in petrol.

“The Riga Sugar Mill in Sitamarhi and Swadeshi Sugar Mill in Narkatiganj have supplied 60,000 litres and 36,000 litres of ethanol respectively to the oil companies,” said Mishra, adding that though the quantities are relatively small, it is a quantum leap towards Bihar becoming an ethanol hub.
The state has already attracted investment proposals of around Rs 15,000 crore for setting up several 5,000 TCD (tones crushed per day)— sugar complexes, which, in turn, would yield white crystal sugar, produce ethanol and co-generate power. “If a 5,000 TCD unit witnesses 150 days of crushing, around 500 lakh litres of ethanol will be produced,” explained the minister.

To reduce the oil import bill and tap the potential of Bihar, which is the most ideal place for production of sugarcane in terms of distance from equator, soil-type and availability of water, the state government has amended the law also.

“We have amended the Bihar Sugarcane (Regulation of Supply and Purchase) Act, 1981, and now sugarcane juice can be directly used for producing ethanol or rectified spirit,” said Mishra, dwelling at length how Bihar was the first state which decided to allow production of ethanol directly from sugarcane juice instead of the normal practice of processing sugarcane to produce sugar, and using the molasses to produce ethanol.

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