• Business Business

Refinery to pioneer production of renewable ethanol using surprising source: '[It] is all around'

It's grown all around in the north-eastern region.

It's grown all around in the north-eastern region.

Photo Credit: iStock

An Indian oil refinery plans to make renewable ethanol out of fast-growing bamboo. 

If successful, the plan from Numaligarh Refinery could create a sustainable fuel that also supports India's bamboo farming economy, along with reducing air pollution, according to Reuters

It's part of an effort from Indian officials to curb the country's reliance on dirty oil. Reuters reports that the country is the world's third-largest oil consumer. According to the World Population Review, it's the third-largest air polluter, as well. 

A large part of the plan to cut back on oil imports includes substituting more ethanol for gas — doubling it to 20% by 2025, per the news agency. 

Enter abundant bamboo

"Bamboo is all around in the north-eastern region," refinery managing director Bhaskar Phukan told GRAINNET. 

The prolific plant can grow nearly 3 feet a day. It's bendable, hard to burn, and grows faster after being cut, per OneTreePlanted. 

The project is starting with a more than $480 million investment. When operating, the refinery told Reuters that the company expects to make more than 55,000 tons of ethanol each year. The process is also expected to produce tens of thousands of tons of acetic acid and a compound used in adhesives. 

Ethanol, a biofuel, is commonly added to gas to make it cleaner burning, reducing air pollution, according to the U.S. Energy Department (DOE). About 98% of fuel in the United States has ethanol in the mix. However, 94% of America's ethanol is made from corn, which is also needed for food, per the DOE. 

That's why fast-growing bamboo is an appealing option for Indian refineries in their effort to clear the air, which is a goal listed on the company website, among other benefits.  

In addition to bamboo-based ethanol substituting for oil, the plan is to provide "income to farmers, and create employment opportunities," per the refinery. 

The investment could also have implications planetwide, as about 99% of the population lives with air quality below World Health Organization standards. 

Refinery officials plan to have the operation up and running by March 2024, per the company website. 

And, it seems the officials can count on at least one constant for their biofuel venture. 

"Plenty of bamboo is available," Phukan said in the Reuters story. 

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider