IN AN innovative step that might provide a boost to use alternative fuel; Assam Petrochemicals Limited (APL) will start a pilot project on October 5 on the use of methanol as an alternative to cooking gas. APL Chairman Jagadish Bhuyan told the media in Namrup last week that the use of methanol or methyl alcohol as an alternative to liquified petroleum gas (LPG) will help reduce cost of cooking. This will be India’s first step towards...NITI Aayog’s flagship programme, Methanol Economy, which will be not just be one of the best ways to mitigate the environmental hazards of a growing economy, but provide households to look beyond the ever increasing fuel price.
“We will launch the pilot project at our APL Township in Namrup on October 5. If it is a success, we will launch it commercially,” said Bhuyan.
“Methanol is a green and clean fuel that is safer as well as cheaper by 30 per cent compared with LPG,” he said.
APL is one of the few profit-making public sector undertakings of the Assam government. APL was established in Namrup in 1971 with a production capacity of 21 tonnes of methanol per day. The company could so far increase its production capacity to 100 tonnes of methanol per day. “If we launch it commercially, we will use a technology imported from Sweden for distribution,” he said.
APL Managing Director Ratul Mahanta said that countries like China, Iran and others have been using methanol to run buses and trains for a long time. He said that the APL is likely to produce 600 tonnes of methanol daily by September next year. “We are also working to convert gases produced in our refineries into methanol,” he said.
According to APL, India produces just 25 percent of the methanol requirement and the rest is imported from the Middle East. APL has made a turnaround in recent times—the gross turnover of the PSU in 2017-18 increased to Rs 99.78 crore, higher by 14.13 percent from 2016-17. In 2017-18, the PSU earned a profit of Rs 12.29 crore, up 262.26 percent from a year ago.
Assam Petro-chemicals Limited was conceived for productive utilization of natural gas, which was being flared up in the Upper Assam oil fields. Only a small quantum of natural gas was then used in fertilizer industry and power generation. To prevent this colossal wastage, the PSU was set up by the state government with joint participation of Assam Industrial Development Corporation Ltd (AIDC) and the public. Incorporated in 1971, the PSU was the first to manufacture petrochemicals in India using natural gas as feedstock. It started with a small Methanol plant with Formaldehyde and a few Urea Formaldehyde resins as downstream projects with technology supplied by Mitsubishi Gas Chemicals Co. Inc, Japan. Commercial production began in 1976. To augment its capacities to meet increasing demand for its products, a bigger Methanol plant with 100TPD capacity was commissioned in 1989 with technology supplied by ICI, UK and a 100 TPD Formaldehyde Plant in 1998 with technology from Derivados Forestales of Nederland. The company was hard hit by the Supreme Court ban in 1996 on wood based industries in the North Eastern region, which were its major consumers. Further, closure of the DMT plant of BRPL in 2000 closed the doors on another important consumer. Despite these twin blows that almost completely dried up its market within the state where it earned maximum profit, the company was able to overcome the challenge by marketing its products in far off places like Bengal, Delhi, Haryana, Uttaranchal, Bihar, Nepal Bhutan etc.