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Interventions in Thermal Gasifiers

Biomass gasifiers for guar gum

Phoenix Products: a success story in promoting biomass gasifiers

Thermal Gasifier


Fuelwood continues to play an important role both in domestic and industrial sector in India as it is an agriculture based country. The share of fuelwood in fuel consumption shows declining trends mainly due to the increasing usage of fossil fuels for economic development during the last few year. However, the actual usage in absolute term has increased considerably. Fuelwood fired traditional cooking systems are generally used for large scale cooking, specially in community kitchens such as in marriage halls, schools, hostels, temples, etc. Huge quantities of fuelwood is being used in traditional ovens which normally operate with very low thermal efficiency of 5-15%. This results in tremendous wastage and is one of the key reasons of rapid deforestation.

Brick unloading at Varanasi VSBK
Commercial prototype of gasifier based silk reeling oven

The continuously rising prices of the fossil fuels and their unreliable availability makes it neccessary to shift to biomass fuel. This has resulted in over dependency on biomass fuels, though biomass is considered to be inferior fuel in its present form. This situation calls for development of a biomass based, energy efficient system with better environmental acceptability, economic viability, and good process control. Biomass gasifier system is ideal for such applications as it can offer all these advantage.

Thermal applications of gasifier system in small and rural industries
Biomass fuels play an important role in the Indian economy, as they are the main source of energy to a large number of small, rural, and cottage industries apart from majority of rural households. A majority of these enterprises belongs to the unorganized sector and, hence, information and data on these industries are scarce. These industries provide employment to millions of people and form a very important part of the rural economy. The biomass-consuming industries can be divided into two categories, traditional industries and new or potential industries.

Traditional biomass-based industries are essentially rural cottage and small-scale industries. These industries depend predominantly on biomass fuels such as wood, agricultural residues, and animal dung because it is cheap and its supply is assured. Biomass energy is used in these industries for direct heating (firing of bricks, lime), indirect firing (drying, baking), boiling, steam raising, and distillation.

New or potential biomass-based industries include many medium-and small-sized enterprises that currently use fossil fuels and are willing to switch over, partially or fully, to biomass fuels available locally at lower prices. Examples of these industries include textile mills, brick kilns, mini cement plants, and lime kilns.

TERI has been involved in several projects to improve thermal efficiency of biomass used in several of these industries both under TERI-SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) partnership projects as well other projects sponsored by various government and private agencies.

Biomass gasifiers for guar gum extraction

The Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) is supporting TERI in a project to promote biomass gasifiers for thermal applications among small-scale guar gum extraction units in Jodhpur. The project will focus its activities on (1) creating awareness among entrepreneurs in the Jodhpur guar gum cluster about the benefits offered by biomass gasifier systems, and (2) developing and demonstrating three biomass gasifierbased heating systems to substitute the existing diesel-based furnaces.

Guar gum is produced by drying, roasting, de-husking, and polishing guar seeds to get refined guar ‘splits’, which are pulverized into various mesh sizes for use in different industries such as food processing, oil well drilling, and explosives. Most of the guar gum units in Jodhpur use diesel, furnace oil or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for heating applications in the extraction process. In the face of increasing fossil fuel prices, and given the ready availability of firewood at relatively low prices, biomass gasification technology offers an attractive option for units in Jodhpur to reduce input costs and increase profits. A working estimate is that one litre of diesel can be replaced by four kilograms of firewood. With diesel costing around 35 rupees per litre and firewood barely Rs 1.50 per kg, there is huge potential for cost savings in guar gum extraction through the use of suitable biomass gasifier systems.

On 5 May 2010, the project organized an ‘inception’ workshop in Jodhpur to spread awareness among cluster stakeholders on the potential benefits offered by biomass gasification technology and on the aims and proposed activities of the project. The event was attended by around 35 participants including guar gum entrepreneurs, office bearers of the Marudhara Industries Association (the local industries association),
other industry representatives from the cluster, and gasifier manufacturers.

Mr Suman Kumar elaborated on PCRA’s initiatives in promoting energy efficiency and environment-friendly technologies in industrial clusters in Rajasthan. He placed the project in the context of the growing scarcity and rising prices of fossil fuels in India and the international market, which makes it important as well as beneficial for industries to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as biomass. Mr Sunil Dhingra and Mr N K Ram of TERI provided an outline of biomass gasification technology, cited TERI’s success in developing and promoting biomass gasifier systems for different thermal applications in a number of MSME clusters across the country, and explained how biomass gasifier-based systems could benefit guar
gum units in terms of reduced fuel costs and increased profitability. The participants were also shown a short video on biomass gasifiers.

Brick unloading at Varanasi VSBK
Inception workshop in Jodhpur

Mr Kiran Desai of JNS Technologies, a veteran in the guar gum industry, shared his knowledge and experience of the guar gum production process. He stressed the importance of improving process efficiency and observed that biomass gasifier technology could bring great benefits.

A highlight of the event was a presentation by Mr Pradeep Singhvi, a bakery owner from the cluster who has been using a biomass gasifier system for two years. In a highly interactive session, he described how switching over from fossil fuel-based heating to a biomass gasifier system has helped him reduce
operating costs and improve earnings. As someone who has actually used and benefited from a biomass gasifier system, Mr Singhvi’s observations struck a powerful chord with the participants.

At the end of the workshop, the entrepreneurs filled out ‘expression of interest’ (EOI) forms, which have helped identify three units in which biomass gasifier systems will be set up and demonstrated under the project.

Phoenix Products: a success story in promoting biomass gasifiers

Wood is widely used as a fuel in rural areas and in many industries (food processing, drying, and so on). However, the traditional woodburning systems show poor thermal efficiency. Also, many industries use systems based on fossil fuels such as diesel and furnace oil, which are becoming increasingly costly, and therefore, eating into profits. We established Phoenix Products in Belgaum, Karnataka in 1989 with the aim to develop and promote biomass-based energy efficient systems that would help replace the existing low efficiency systems, particularly those based on fossil fuels, reduce fuel consumption and fuel expenditure, and offer the users attractive returns on their investment.

Phoenix Products receives ‘Best Tiny Industry Award’

Today, Phoenix Products has become a leading manufacturer and exporter of biomassbased energy efficient devices. In 1993, we received the award of ‘BestTiny Industries’ from the Directorate of Industries and Commerce, Karnataka, presented by the then Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr Veerappa Moily. We have developed a sound infrastructural base—a sophisticated manufacturing unit, an advanced quality control unit, a hi-tech R&D facility, and above all, a highly skilled workforce with a commitment to excellence. This enables us to develop and produce world class products for a growing Indian and international market. Our biomass-based products include insulated water heaters (hot water boilers), cook stoves, dryers, and biomass gasifiers for various thermal requirements.

Phoenix Products has been associated with TERI since 2007, and is manufacturing and installing TERI-design biomass gasifiers for a number of industries including food processing units (e.g. Shankar Guda’s Puffed Rice Factory) and non-ferrous industries (e.g. SPM Extrusions Pvt Ltd for aluminium melting and billet heating). We have also participated in a number of awareness generation programmes organized by TERI to promote biomass gasifiers, for instance, in Govindram Seksaria Science College, Belgaum (July 2008), BVB College of Engineering and Technology, Hubli (November 2008), and Centre for Entrepreneurship Development of Karnataka, Dharwad (January 2009). In November 2009, Phoenix Products developed and installed a biomass gasifier at Ashok Iron Works Pvt Ltd., a foundry unit in Belgaum, for sand drying applications.

The foundry was earlier consuming close to 20 kg LPG per hour, at an estimated cost of Rs 800 /hour for drying sand. With the installation of the biomass gasifier, the foundry consumes around 80 kg firewood per hour at an estimated cost of Rs 240 /hour) for the same purpose. Thus, the foundry is saving around Rs 560 per hour or Rs 8960 per 16-hour day! This gives a payback period of less than 12 months on the cost of the gasifier.

Till now, Phoenix Products has developed and installed a total of 12 biomass gasifiers for thermal applications in various industries in Belgaum. The major attractions of the biomass gasifiers are low fuel costs, easy availability of fuel, no pollution, high combustion efficiency, and high output rate. Following the installation of biomass gasifiers, our clients are able to save around 40%–70% of their fuel costs.