Ethanol producers across the country are a worried lot with the the National Green Tribunal ( NGT) making Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) licenses mandatory for the manufacturers.
The Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF) and the Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation (MSCSFF) have approached the Centre seeking concessions on the norms that have been made mandatory for ethanol units.
As per the NGT order, it is now mandatory for distilleries and sugar mills producing ethanol to obtain a license from PESO. For the 2017-18 season, tenders were floated for 329 crore litres of ethanol. As per these tenders, 218 ethanol producers from across the country had bid for production of 313 crore litres. Of these, 107 producers in Maharashtra had bid for tenders to produce 114 crore litres of ethanol.
On September 28, Social Action for Forest and Environment (SAFE), in a letter to the NGT, urged the tribunal to issue directives to ensure that Oil Manufacturing Companies (OMCs) do not purchase ethanol from those units that do not possess the PESO license. Accordingly, NGT issued directives for units to submit the proofs of applications for PESO licenses. The three associations then pointed out that since several units are old and were made to the specifications of State Excise Department norms and will require time to make the technical changes for undertaking civil works. The associations, therefore, sought a time period of 18-24 months to make the necessary changes, a statement issued by the MSCSFF said.
At a meeting held in Nagpur with the chief controller, explosives, Nagpur, on November 9, 57 PESO licences were issued to the units. 149 units have submitted applications for PESO licenses and of these, 100 units have been granted interim approval. 49 units have been directed to overcome technical issues and fulfill norms.
As per the norms, these units will have to obtain ‘No Objection Certificates’ ( NOC) from the respective district collectors and make necessary changes in the storage tanks. According to the Maharashtra Federation, the chief controller agreed that this process may require 4-5 months.
However, because of the NGT directives, the OMCs will not be able to purchase ethanol from the state’s units. At present, only 6 units in Maharashtra have PESO licences – which means only 11% of the ethanol quota will be met, officials from the federation said.