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Towards Sustainable Economic Growth
Biorefining, around the world, is in nascent stage. However, in some of the countries constant support from government and research institutions has accelerated the growth of the sector remarkably. Being an agriculture nation, India also has bright chances to develop biorefineries as a potential alternative to fossil fuel plants. In a detailed conversation with CEW, Samir Somaiya, Chairman and Managing Director, Godavari Biorefineries Ltd, talks about the scope and opportunities in biorefining sector in the country.

Biorefining will play an important role in sustainable economic growth in the country in years to come. Biorefineries use biomass instead of petroleum as the feedstock to produce not only value added chemicals but also heat, power and fuels. Unlike non-renewable resources such as coal and petroleum which take millions of years to form and are conventional resources, the crop like sugarcane which is a one-year crop, is definitely a more sustainable long term solution.
With advances in cultivation techniques the farmers are now experimenting with various crop geometries and are successfully getting high yields with one or two intercrops crops every year. People, who believe in the concept of biorefineries, are doing it by themselves.
Technological innovations and support from government will further boost the industry. I believe public policy has to create little more conducive environment by promoting the concept.

Feedstock Options for First-generation and Second-generation Biorefineries First-generation biorefineries are based on utilisation of agricultural biomass - specifically agriculture products that contain sugars or oils. Our experience is more with sugarcane, and this is a good feedstock option for first-generation biorefineries that use Fermentation.
On the other hand, second-generation biorefineries, which use cellulosic biomass as a raw material, are rare in India, and in fact also rare in the world. In fact, there is lot of research still going on around the world to learn how to make the most of the cellulosic biomass to produce fuel and chemicals. I do think - perhaps in the next five years - we will see some of the cellulosic facilities coming up in the country.
Presently, many of second-generation biorefineries are focusing only on fuel; however, in near future many value-added chemicals will also be produced.
As far as we are concerned, we produce power, biofuels, solvents, and specialty chemicals. We compete in the chemical space globally with the producers who use petroleum as the feedstock. In the years to come, we do intend to expand our portfolio.

Biorefining Scenario in India
A few companies in India have taken initiatives to utilise biomass as a potential raw material to produce different end products. But it will take couples of years more for the industry to be fully grown. The industry will be driven more by individual efforts, and greater progress can be made through a more encouraging policy environment.
Just to give an example, the US Government offers funding for the projects to produce biofuels. Even the German government is giving tremendous attention to the growth of biorefining sector and supporting the entire value chain right from the crop production and crop treatment to research work in the field of producing feedstock processing and biopolymers etc.
The German Government is encouraging entrepreneurship and has institutionalised the funding for development of biorefineries as a part of the sustainable growth of their economy. These countries are proactively working towards creating congenial environment and taking several steps such as offering subsidies and grants to boost the growth of biorefining sector. India is an agrarian economy and every farmer in the country is an entrepreneur.
I feel that India, as a country, needs to have a similar approach as being followed by some of the countries like USA and Germany to boost the growth of this sector.
In first-generation biorefinery, which according to me includes the entire alcohol-based chemical business, people have invested remarkably for over last 50 years and these businesses are well-established in the country. For second-generation biorefining, the investment is not very huge in the country as the sector is still in nascent stage.
Scope for Biorefining Sector in the Country Leveraging on the huge resource base, biorefining industry can develop a lot in India, provided entrepreneurs get support in terms of seed funds; they go for technological collaborations; and they believe in the concept of biorefinery and see it as a potential way of producing fuel or chemicals.
Way Forward
┬Science╩, ┬Technology╩ and ┬Innovation╩ are the key elements. We need to understand how to transform a particular crop into a particular product. And believe me it can╩t happen unless we follow a scientific approach. Germany would be again a very good example where Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft institute is dedicated to biorefining sector. Research in India should be broad based, with the involvement, of Research Laboratories, Colleges, Entrepreneurs, and large companies.
We should analyse and understand how countries like USA, Germany, Brazil, Austria, etc are progressing in biorefining sector - particularly in research and development. Governments in these nations have done a lot to encourage the industry in form of announcing grants and support for the initiatives taken to develop the bio-refining sector by individuals.
I believe that being an agrarian economy and the considering the amount of talent pool available in India we can go a long way with support from the concerned authorities.