Niti Aayog is aiming to set up a 15,000 tonnes per day coal to methanol gasification unit in a bid to cut crude oil imports. Speaking to reporters at a press briefing, Member, Niti Aayog, V K Saraswat, said, “The 15,000 tonnes per day plant will cost around ₹ 9,000 crore to ₹ 10,000 crore. It will gasify coal and convert to methanol.”

This 15,000 tonnes per day coal to methanol plant will be enough meet the initial target of a 10 per cent cut in crude oil import dependence by 2020, Saraswat added.

Saraswat said that while this plan is on the drawing board right now, another 1,500 tonnes per day coal to methanol project has also been proposed. He said: “We have written to the government to set up a 1,500 tonnes per day coal to methanol gasification unit at the Talcher coal to fertiliser project. A separate stream of coal can be provisioned by the government for the same.”

Niti Aayog is also in talks with biomass rich states to develop methanol production facilities. Saraswat said: “Biomass is the cheapest source for producing methanol. It can be sold as low as ₹ 16 a litre. We have started preparing a detailed project report (DPR) for Uttar Pradesh for the same.” The current price of imported methanol is close to ₹ 22 per litre, he added.

According to Saraswat, the country’s current manufacturing capacity of methanol is 3.2 million tonnes. Of this, the production is just 0.4 million tonne. He said, “This is used largely as a feedstock for chemical and fertiliser units.”

Niti Aayog is currently working on three detailed project reports for building the methanol economy. Saraswat said, “We are working on the DPR for conversion of existing internal combustion engines to run on methanol, one DPR for distribution of methanol and another one for blending the fuel with conventional fuels.”

“The three are likely to be completed by March this year,” he added.