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Bio-CNG The Future Fuel


Bio-CNG is an advanced version of biogas produced from organic sources. With rising cost of fuel, Bio-CNG can be a promising alternative for fossil-based petroleum fuel.


GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Fuel crisis in India
  2. Bio-CNG
  3. Bio-CNG in India
  4. India’s efforts to promote Bio-CNG
  5. National Policy on Biofuels
  6. What are the drawbacks?
  7. Way Forward:

Fuel crisis in India:

  • India is currently reeling under a severe fuel crisis as the price of fossil fuel is increasing and is adversely impacting the country’s inflation rate.
  • The country is importing more than 35 per cent of its fuel needs from Russia.
  • Also the internal production is just a trickle compared to the total demand.
  • Need for a reliable alternative for the future?
  • It is in the light of this grim situation that the need for a reliable energy source of organic origin unlike fossil-based petroleum, assumes importance.
  • And that is “compressed natural gas,” or bio-CNG.
  • Bio-CNG is also a decentralised clean energy form that can be produced at the point of consumption right through the year and at all times of the day.
    • It sets it apart from other renewable sources such as solar or wind energy, which are subject to climatic fluctuations.


  • It is an advanced version of biogas produced from organic sources such as animal manure (farm yard manure) and food waste.
  • It have been traditionally used in India’s rural landscape.
  • Its calorific value is similar to that of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which is used sparingly in India.
  • Production:
    • Bio-CNG production involves the commercial refining of biogas to enhance its methane content to above 90 per cent.
    • Waste products are decomposed to produce biogas, which is purified to enhance its methane content.
    • The raw material is at least 90 per cent segregated biodegradable waste or crop residues.
    • Remaining solids are used as bio-fertilisers in agriculture.
    • Removing carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide from the raw gas converts it to purified methane containing 95 per cent methane, which is compressed and filled into cylinders and sent to CNG plants for fuelling vehicles.

Bio-CNG in India:

  • India has a huge agricultural waste – primary crop stubble that is currently burned, causing severe air pollution as in Punjab.
  • Agriculture Stubble along with municipal waste, the best raw material for bio-CNG production.
  • Bio-CNG produced only from municipal solid waste and wastewater can generate enough energy to reduce India’s daily diesel consumption by 4,054 tonnes.

India’s efforts to promote Bio-CNG:

  • Gobardhan scheme: The proposed bio-CNG plants, 75 of which will be in urban areas, are part of the Gobardhan (Galvanising Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan) scheme under the Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
  • National Policy on Bio-Fuels: India launched a serious exploration of the possibilities of producing clean fuel in June 2018 with the announcement of the National Policy on Bio-Fuels.
  • SATAT Project:
    • Last October, the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas rolled out its ambitious project, ‘Sustainable Alternatives Towards Affordable Transportation’ (SATAT).
    • The project aims to establish 5,000 bio-CNG plants by 2023–24, of which only 40 currently operate, as per data collected by the Gobardhan scheme, with a pathetic production of just 311 tonnes as against the potential of 62 million tonnes.
    • SATAT targets a 15-million-tonne production by 2023.

National Policy on Biofuels

  • In order to promote biofuels in the country, first National Policy on Biofuels was made by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy during the year 2009.
  • National Policy on Biofuels -2018 builds on the achievements of the earlier National Policy on Biofuels setting new agenda consistent with the redefined role of emerging developments in the renewable sector aiming to bring in renewed focus taking into context the international perspectives and National scenario.
  • The policy envisages an indicative target of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of bio-diesel in diesel by 2030.
  • The Policy categorises biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
  • The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  • The Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee – so that farmers get appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase.
  • The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.

What are the drawbacks?

  • India lacks a robust ecosystem for fuel uptake, leading to only a few takers operating comfortably.
  • Sourcing of raw materials: Plant owners complain that SATAT only guarantees a buyer for the fuel, does not support plant establishment or the procurement of quality feedstock, and makes fuel manufacture the exclusive responsibility of owners.
  • Cost involved:
    • It costs Rs 25–30 crore to set up a plant, of which the central finance from the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy under the “Waste-to-Energy Programme” is just Rs 4 crore, with a cap of Rs 10 crore per 4.8 tonnes of bio-CNG produced, while budget provision is just Rs 600 crore, which is insufficient to set up 5,000 plants.

Way Forward:

  • The industry recommends a production-linked incentive scheme along with attractive interest rates on bank loans.
  • Despite the technical difficulties like sourcing good raw materials and efficient segregation, the bio-CNG is not only environmentally sound but can save the country foreign exchange.  

March 2024