Sugar industry’s potential for providing bio-energy & oxygen : Overview

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A National Webinar on a very important topic “Sugar Industry- Potential for Providing Bio-energy & Oxygen” was organized by National Sugar Institute, Kanpur on 10th May 2021 wherein more than 200 delegates from different sugar producing states participated. Apart from discussions on electricity, ethanol and bio-gas generation in sugar factories, in wake of Covid-19 and rising demand for Oxygen, presentations on possibilities for producing “Oxygen” under the existing infrastructure of sugar factories were also made.

In his opening remarks, Prof. Narendra Mohan, Director, National Sugar Institute, Kanpur called upon the sugar industry to look for setting up Industrial Oxygen Units, particularly those sugar units having integrated Ethanol Units on Pressure Swing Absorption (PSA) technology. The existing Molecular Sieve De-hydration Systems available in Ethanol units may be converted for absorbing nitrogen from the air and thus releasing Oxygen which is required, he said. When a gas mixture such as air, which is a mixture of mainly nitrogen and oxygen, is pushed under pressure through a vessel containing an adsorbent bed of zeolite, the nitrogen will be absorbed in the bed, since it is attracted more strongly to zeolite than is oxygen. The gas that exits the vessel, therefore, is rich in oxygen, having shed most of its nitrogen, Prof. Mohan said. Since many of sugar factories having power export they may not face any problem in meeting the additional power requirements, he added. This system may ensure providing oxygen of 93(+/-) 3% purity requiring lesser cost of installation and production. Otherwise, an independent Oxygen Unit of 25 nm3/hour may cost about Rs. 50.00 lakhs.

Discussing about “Energy Security” and “Atmanirbhar Chini Udyog”, he said, considering sugarcane crushing of about 280 MMT per annum, Indian Sugar Factories can export over 10,000 MWh power besides providing 0.4 MMT of Compressed Biogas and over 4500 million liters of ethanol which may facilitate about 12% blending of petrol. The potential can further be increased through development of innovative technologies and equipment viz. bagasse gasification and production of cellulosic ethanol.

In his presentation, Mr Vivek Verma, Managing Director, M/s SEDL, Mohali elaborated the innovative technology developed by them based on use of “Mechanical Vapor Re-compression”. We can reduce the energy requirements of a conventional sugar unit by 50% and thus the energy saved can be utilized elsewhere or the plant capacity can be expanded for having more crush, said Mr. Verma. Mr. Mahesh Kulkarni, Vice President, M/s Praj Industries Ltd., Pune discussed on various models of energy conservation in ethanol units while processing different feed stocks i.e. molasses, cane juice, grains and sweet sorghum juice etc.

Prof. D Swain, Convener of the Webinar made an elaborate presentation on potential of bio-energy from sugar industry and discussed a road map for exploiting the potential. He called upon the sugar industry to develop and implement flexible systems in attached distilleries to produce ethanol through molecular sieve dehydration system or Oxygen as per need.

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