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Swiss biogas pioneer tackles India's toxic air pollution

01-27-2020 04:42 PM CET | Energy & Environment

Press release from: Renergon International AG

Indian farmers burning millions of tonnes of rice residue every year (Neil Palmer, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Indian farmers burning millions of tonnes of rice residue every year (Neil Palmer, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Every day millions of people in India's capital Delhi start their day in eye-burning smog. As pollution hits record-breaking levels, with toxins over 50 times accepted maximum levels, a farming method, known as stubble burning, is identified as a major contributor.

Delhi's city authorities declared a public health emergency as wide regions are covered in thick and toxic smog, which poses a major threat to health and climate. Air pollution in India is estimated to kill about 2.5 million people yearly. Therefore, it is the fifth-largest killer in India and causes the world's highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases and asthma, according to the WHO. Poor quality air irreversibly damages the lungs of 2.2 million or 50 percent of all children. Experts say breathing the air in New Delhi is like smoking up to 50 cigarettes a day. Even the Supreme Court states "Delhi worse than hell" on toxic pollution for their failure on improving the quality of air. According to the government environment agency, almost 50% of Delhi's pollution was from crop burning.

States surrounding Delhi became known as the "grain bowl" with a dramatic increase in rice and wheat productivity over the last decades. But as production grew, the sector could not keep up with an increasing demand for labor, resulting in the growth of less labor-intensive methods such as the combine harvester-based harvesting. Unlike manual techniques, combine harvesters leave behind rice stubble, which prevents machines from sowing wheat seeds. With as little as 10 days between rice harvesting season and sowing for the following wheat season, farmers turn to stubble burning to quickly get rid of this huge loads and disposal problem of remaining crop residues. Previous efforts to crack down on this seasonal issue failed.

Dry fermentation seems to be a promising approach to tackle this problem and is being promoted by governmental authorities. It is planned to roll out 5000 biogas plants across India in a phased manner within the next 5 years. Digesting the residues not only solves the seasonally huge loads of organic waste burnings and thus air pollution, but also provides added value such as renewable energy and mobility from power generation and biogas (CNG) as a fuel for mobility and household supply, e.g. for cooking. In addition, products such as compost and fertilizer are created as agricultural boosters producing healthy and fertile soil.

First Mover with its very own second-generation biogas technology for dry matter, with its so called "omnivorous" appetite, is the swiss based company Renergon which could trigger a revolution. A first plant cluster is currently being implemented in the Punjab region, in the north of India. The company's core technology of solid fermentation is commercially self-sustaining and takes regional characteristics into account, which makes previous biogas projects based on liquid fermentation tackling this challenge appear uneconomic and far too wasteful in terms of water use, and in the end many failed.

A sustainable comprehensive solution could be in sight and is already in the making. The positive effects could be a milestone not only for India, but for the global climate, since burning organic waste is not only a problem in India, but also widespread in other parts of Southeast Asia and China.

Renergon International AG
Kreuzlingerstrasse 5
8574 Lengwil
Switzerland

Marc Faulhaber
m.faulhaber@renergon.com
Tel. +41 71 688 24 07

RENERGON is an international Greentech Champion - with its own patented RSD technology in solid-state fermentation and a demonstrated plant construction and operation expert for renewable energy and circular economy projects. PROBLEM-SOLVING - in extracting value from organic waste in creating valuable, sustainable products such as biofuel, biogas, renewable energy, compost, fertilizer, biochar - always combined with global social and environmental responsibility. Swiss precision, German engineering, Global vision and state-of-the-art technology - RENERGON is a top-class B2B SOLUTION PROVIDER.

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