Bio-CNG organic (compressed natural gas), plastic-based fuels and agri wastes are emerging as potential raw materials to be tapped in the sunrise biofuel sector, says Coimbatore-based Buyofuel Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kishan Karunagaran. “From a new biofuel aspect, I think bio-CNG is definitely exciting. It is at a nascent stage but its potential is great. Though things on the bio-CNG have been idle for quite a while now, I think it will pick up once clarity emerges in terms of the demand,” Karunagaran told businessline.

Exciting developments

The demand scenario is becoming clear in North India, while a similar situation seems to be emerging in Gujarat and Maharashtra. “It is an exciting space where bio-CNG is manufactured from organic wastes, including municipal solid wastes,” said the CEO of the company, set up in 2020 and which calls itself “Corona baby”. 

Another exciting development is that of plastic-based fuels. “I think technology is evolving really fast. It was inefficient 3-4 years ago and efficiencies have gotten better. The quality of fuels that are coming out is good. So, I think plastic-based fuels is another major aspect we are looking at,” he said. 

There is potential to tap all sorts of waste, particularly agri produce wastes. Development of biofuel from mango seeds “is coming up very well”, said Karunagaran, whose online biofuel market place Buyofuel primarily connects waste “generators and aggregators” through its online platform.

Unconventional raw materials

Gujarat leads the country in tapping the wastes from mango, while wastes from coriander (dhaniya) is something Buyofuel is trying to push towards the South. 

Turmeric “spent” is finding good application in biofuel manufacture and more agri produce wastes will find their place, including residues. “We will find more space in biofuels. It is one thing we are actively working on,” said the CEO of Buyofuel, which connects producers of biofuel with consumers. 

Buyofuel helps source unconventional raw materials such as coconut pith-based wastes. “We sourced coconut pith-based wastes or even mango seed wastes. There are many agro residues that come from various industries that should go into the biofuel value chain,” he said.

Buyofuel has a technical team which looks at the sustainability and getting more wastes for the biofuel value chain, the company’s CEO said. It is looking at new avenues but there are certain issues such as high ash content which need to be worked out. 

With the government likely to bring in its own carbon credits registry and compliance, many companies could look at tapping biofuels to earn carbon credits. 

The founding team of Buyofuel

The founding team of Buyofuel

Buyofuel, which began commercial operations in 2021, found that biofuel manufacturers and fuel consumers did not want to speak to one another. As they look at someone to do this, the company has stepped into function. “We are into the entire spectrum, all types of biofuels. And all types of waste that can be used for fuel,” he said.

Agri and organic wastes make up 80-90 per cent of the raw material for biofuel. “But now technology is evolving in such a way that end-of-life plastics and end-of-life tyres and rubbers can also be used for making biofuels,” Karunagaran, who was involved in setting up Tamil Nadu’s first biodiesel plant in 2007, said.

Promising Punjab

Farmers are showing interest in providing waste for biofuel. On its part, Buyofuel is conducting research to zero in on plants and weeds that have high calorific value and can be converted into biofuels. “There is interest from farmers and farmer producer organisations (FPOs). The connection is with cottage and agro-processing industry, whose residue is going into biofuel manufacture. 

“Interest from farmers is the reason why Buyofuel moved into Punjab to tap paddy and wheat straw besides stubbles. Punjab has been a revelation from farmers’ and consumers’ point of view,” Karunagaran said. 

Within a short span of two months of entering the State, the company received tremendous response. Buyofuel, which has developed technology for making biofuels and set up a couple of units based on this, gets these manufactured into biofuel through manufacturers in the same region. 

3 reasons to use biofuels

“And then again consumers like Metro Tyres, Hero Tyres and Hero Steels buy the fuel. There are large consumers in Punjab who are willing to shift to biofuel even from agro or biomass power. Punjab has made rapid strides in biopower,” said the company’s CEO, who is witnessing rapid growth in the use of biofuels, said. 

Buyofuel, which manages most of its operations digitally, has a field team which reaches out to various sellers and buyers. The company has a total user base of 2,500-2,600 with sellers accounting for 1,000 and biofuel manufacturers making up 500-700. The rest are buyers. “We have been lucky to have some of the largest names in the industry and some of the largest fuel consumers. We have already supplied biofuels to over 20 of the top 50 fuel consumers of India including the likes of Saint Gobain, Thermax, ITC, Ultratech Cement Group, Ramco, Siemens, TVS Tyres,” Karunagaran said. 

The usage of biofuels is increasing as companies resort to cost cutting, realise their social responsibility, become aware of environment benefits and due to government mandate.  

Briquettes pact

“Large corporate companies seem to move towards biofuels for social reasons,” he said. 

Buyofuel recently entered into an agreement with a company for the manufacture of briquettes by ensuring raw material supply and finding buyers. “This will ensure they get raw materials and can supply biofuels without hassles. This will help producers grow and increase biofuel output,” he said.   

The company has found growth in biofuel in Tamil Nadu’s western (Kongu) region to replace coal and fossil fuels. A similar demand has emerged in coastal and southern Tamil Nadu. “We are in discussions with biofuel manufacturers in Maharashtra and Karnataka,” Karunagaran said. 

Currently, Buyofuel operates in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Punjab. “We want to consolidate in these regions,” the Buyofuel CEO said.