Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has asked the government think tank NITI Aayog to study automobile specifications that China has developed for running its fleet on ethanol. Keen on promoting alternative green fuel like methanol, the Road Transport and Highways Minister has also asked global players like Volvo and Stena Lines if they could run automobile and shipping fleet on methanol, officials said. Chairing a high-level meeting yesterday, Gadkari asked industry players like Larsen & Toubro and Thermax to explore possibilities of producing green fuels like methanol from high-ash coal. Gadkari had yesterday chaired a high-level meeting of various ministries, ports and industry players here. Former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and NITI Aayog member V K Saraswat were also present in the meeting, officials who attended the meeting told PTI.
The minister asked NITI Aayog to study automobile specifications that China has developed for running its fleet on ethanol. The Aayog has constituted three expert groups on production, utilisation and research and development of methanol. The minister termed methanol as a promising solution to cut India’s huge Rs 7 lakh crore annual crude import bills. “Most of the countries produced it from gas but in India it would be economically viable if we derive it from high-ash coal as India is surplus in coal generation,” Gadkari has said. Addressing the meet, Gadkari has asked players like Larsen and Toubro and Thermax if they could come forward with a technology for it, officials said.
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The minister has said that the government not only plans to run automobile fleet on it but also intends to use it as main fuel for running vessels on waterways. “This government is committed to promote clean fuel. We have lots of coal mines….I had a meeting with the prime minister,” he has said. The minister has said that if methanol proves viable, barges could be easily run on it and asked Cochin Shipyard if the methanol-compliant engines could be manufactured. Also, he stressed the need for use of agri produce, solid waste for methanol production besides coal, saying that methanol production from coal will be cost-effective. A pilot project for coal to methanol is running at Talcher in Odisha.
The stakeholders agreed that coal would be a better solution as manufacturing methanol from imported gas would be a costly proposition. Thermax, which was part of the meeting said it is in the process of manufacturing methanol from coal, officials said. Thermax said India should be able to have its own 1,500- 5,000 TPD (tonnes per day) plant by 2023 and all licensing will be Indian. As per the presentation by NITI Aayog, methanol is a very promising fuel for waterways as it is clean, can be a good substitute for heavy fuels and can be effective not only in cutting down imports but also checking pollution.
India at present imports methanol from Saudi Arabia and Iran and indigenous production is at a very low level. Those present in the meet included experts and stakeholders including ministers and officials from Chemicals & Fertilizers, Petroleum & Natural Gas, New & Renewable Energy. The CMD of Cochin Shipyard was also present, officials said.