India Tests Swedish Technology To Effectively Replace Stubble Burning

Stubble burning has become a major bane of the winter season in Northern India. This winter Delhi was subsumed in toxic pollution due to stubble burning practices across Haryana and other Northern states. To prevent a repeat of such a calamity, India is now testing the Swedish technology known as “Torrefaction” that converts rice stubble into bio-fuel.

What is torrefaction?

Torrefaction is the process of converting biomass into a coal-like material. This material has better fuel-like characteristics than biomass in its original state. The process involves heating stubble between 250-350 degrees Celcius that converts it into cola-like pellets. These pellets can be used along with coal across industries.

What are the advantages of torrefaction?

According to research, a project such as this can convert 150-200 kilograms of paddy to bio-coal every hour. This, in turn, will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 95%. The torrefied mass is also more brittle which makes breaking it down for combustion much more energy efficient. Compared to fresh biomass, these pellets are far easier to store and transport. They can also be used as coal replacements. That in itself is a massive win in the long run.

What are the disadvantages of torrefaction?

Unfortunately, there are still some challenges. The volume doesn’t shrink more than approximately 10-12%, which means transport and storage, although easier, is not significantly cheaper. The calorific value may be higher in these pellets, but the energy produced does not increase significantly. It does not reduce the corrosion of machinery when compared to regular coal.

Way Forward

Stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab has been rooted as the main cause of pollution and degrading air quality in the National Capital of Delhi. It has added to the woes of many cities down the banks of river Ganges. If we can find even a single alternative to ensure such polluting practices can be curbed, we need to act on it. For now, torrefaction, despite its drawbacks, is the right step forward.

Question for UPSC Mains:
India can learn from the world on how to better manage its pollution problems in the National Capital. Discuss.

Published: January 10, 2020 | Modified:January 10, 2020

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