Powering Unconventional Business

Updated: Apr 27 2004, 05:30am hrs
Heres some food for thought for farmers milling rice and throwing away the bran. Save the bran and earn a bus trip powered by it!

The first passenger omnibus running on biodiesel is all set to hit the Chennai roads in June. The latest novelty comes after the swanky biodiesel powered Merc. Only the omnibus uses a different fuel. The biodiesel for it is produced from rice bran oil through a catalytic process.

The technology is developed by KC Velappan at the department of chemical engineering, Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), Chennai. The trial run is being sponsored by the ministry of non-conventional energy sources, Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency and Chennai Metro Transport Corporation.

In the search for environment-friendly solutions for leather tanning and processing I thought of answers for other fundamental environmental problems like automobile emissions. Research and studies led me to rice bran oil and the biodiesel from it, Mr Velappan told FE.

Why rice bran oil Rice bran is available everywhere in India. Study results showed that biodiesel from it was the most perfect diesel substitute without any of its harmful and polluting emissions. It is not corrosive or toxic. The engines need no modifications, he added.

It is also better than the proposed jetropha-based biodiesel. For that jetropha plantations have to be raised. Rice bran will be best suited to launch the biodiesel programme right away, he says.

The biodiesel making process, which is applicable to any vegetable oil, edible or non-edible, received the Indian patent in September 2003 and the US patent in December 2003. It is also patented in 23 other countries.

Mr Velappans biodiesel is named as VEL (Vindia Energy Liquid) biodiesel. The suppliers of biodiesel to the US Navy have evinced interest in the technology.