Bio Energy, a German company that provides technology and engineering design for biomass-based gas plants, has entered the Indian market in partnership with a Noida-based start-up, Gruner Renewable Energy.

Utkarsh Gupta, Founder & CEO of the 5-month-old Gruner Renewable has told businessline that the company has secured 42 firm contracts for building biogas plants and many more are in the offing.

Under the business model, if a businessman wants to invest in a biogas plant, Gruner Renewable will build a customised one for him with BioEnergy’s design; and also buy-back the gas. Gruner will retail the gas—for automobiles, for starters, under ‘Gruner’ brand name.

Gupta said that a typical plant of 40-50 tons-per-day of feedstock will cost about ₹15 crore to set up, will yield two-three tons of gas per day. A ton of biomass will yield about 90 cubic meters of gas. Marketing the gas is not the businessman/investor’s problem, because Gruner Renewable will buy all the gas, under firm offtake agreements.

The 20-year-old BioEnergy has built over 300 plants in 12 countries and is currently building the world’s biggest one, in Malawi in southern Africa (where the gas will fuel a 56 MW power plant). BioEnergy has experience in handling 580 types of feedstock, the company’s Managing Director, Dr Nils Rottmann, told businessline on Saturday at Nagpur, where BioEnergy and Gruner Renewable met a group of potential investors.

Gupta said that he was confident that Gruner Renewable would engender the setting up of at least a hundred biogas plants in 2023, given the government’s plan to have 5,000 such plants by 2024. 

A Nagpur-based businessman, Achal Thool, has invested ₹20 crore in building a 50 tons-per-day biogas plant near Nagpur, which is likely to go on stream in a few months.

He said that sustained availability and predictable price of feedstock were challenges but noted that BioEnergy-designed plants could handle a mix of fuels. He said that Napier grass, that can be quickly grown even on wastelands, was a good feedstock. Rottmann said that Napier grass could be harvested four times a year—no need for storage and cultivation of the grass could be tuned to suit the demand. Gupta said that you would need 80-90 acres of land to grow Napier grass for a 40-tons-per-day biogas plant. Agri-residues, such as rice straw, could be co-fired with Napier grass, Rottmann said. 

Asked if the organism that produces the gas in the digestor would need to be changed if the feedstock is changed, Rottmann pointed out that there are about 10,000 different species of bacteria in the digestor. Only about 10 per cent of them are active on a particular feedstock; if the feedstock changes, another group of bacteria takes over as the dominant species. 

Asked if biogas could be further processed into green hydrogen or methanol, Gupta said that was a plan for later.