What’s stopping India from achieving its biogas ambitions?

India’s pursuit for cleaner energy has a perplexing absentee: biogas.

India’s target was to produce 15 million metric tonnes of CBG from 5,000 new plants by the end of this year. As of March, only 46 plants had been commissioned.

The country’s flagship scheme to promote biogas is mired in ambiguity. Operators are struggling to run plants at total capacity. There is a mismatch between demand and supply.

But biogas is low-hanging fruit to achieve clean energy goals. What’s stopping?

I came across a group of farmers who went on youtube, searched for a way to make biogas accessible, and implemented a simple scheme. They fill biogas in a used tyre tube and connect to their stove and use it. Lasts them for a day’s cooking. Set up similar one in every village and they can probably supply surplus gas to the city.

Finshots shared this nice explianer on some of the teething issues of the biogas sector - since the Govt announced the from 2025 onwards, it will be mandatory to blend compressed biogas (CBG) with piped natural gas (PNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG). Blending Obligation shall be kept as 1 per cent, 3 per cent and 4 per cent of total CNG/PNG consumption for FY 2025-26, 2026- 27 and 2027-28 respectively. From 2028-29 onwards CBO will be 5 per cent

Will be interesting to hear from Carbon Masters and Som (Founder of Carbon Masters) on what they think about this. @mspasricha

Som from Carbon Masters shared this over email,

Firstly on Ethanol.

We haven’t looked into Ethanol for following reasons. We believe between Biogas and Ethanol - Waste Feedstock to Biogas > Bio-CNG is most cost effective method. Once it’s in Bio-CNG form it can replace 100% fossil fuel! We are running trucks to replace 100% diesel…we prefer this to Ethanol model of blending.

Ethanol in general :

We started Carbon Masters with a passion & vision to reduce carbon emissions - when we found out methane is major contributor to climate crisis so we started projects that can solve the issue around methane from landfills & Agri waste etc.

We then captured the methane, purified bottled and sold Carbonlites Bio-CNG as replacement for LPG. So both a fossil fuel like LPG is replaced and solves methane emissions from landfills.

Ethanol production and blending while may help the govt in forex savings and blending with petrol reduces the fossil fuel consumption - it’s environmental impact esp around land use emissions, chemical fertilizers usage and water consumption to grow sugarcane might overall have a negative impact. we haven’t looked into detailed numbers but can tell on a high level India has millions of agri and organic fraction waste - we would argue, the best solution for the country would be to focus on biogas rather than Ethanol.

Considering financial aspects, env impact,farmer wellbeing all included!

Also biogas can be feedstock owner led.germany has 9500 plants and they are largely successful because most of the plant owners are farmers who control the feedstock ownership.

I think the govt has other reasons to promote the policy around ethanol as our country has excess sugar production, huge lobby from sugar factories mostly owned by politicians and besides asking farmers to stop/change is also a political risk.

Anyway, glad that there is a biofuel focus in the country now and the topic has now shifted to biogas in the form of CBG/Bio-CNG/RNG/bio-methane ( different names for purified biogas)

There is no net zero without biogas

Most of the big hurdles are nearly solved for Bio-CNG fuel to become mainstream fuel- issues can be broadly categorised into 4-5 buckets

  1. Organising feedstock across 350days annually - this is one of the biggest risks for any project. We think our model of doing it with feedstock partners like HDI is the best way to mitigate this risk. Happy to organise a visit to our JV Sustainable Impacts facility operational in blore in Harohalli industrial area- this plant is JV between the 2 companies ( CM & HDI)

  2. Technology and operations- that’s where we come in. We design, build and implement our projects. In the Biogas sector most of the failed projects have been due EPC players setting up the plant and having no responsibility on day to day operations or the financial outcome of the project.

  3. Bio-CNG off take - when we started selling branded Carbonlites Bio-CNG in small cascades, we figured out the USP’s required to replace LPG in kitchens. This has now gotten better that GOVt of India s latest mandatory blending target for CGD’S will only make it easy to sell the gas that’s produced by plants.

  4. Organic manure - this is still a challenge, we are currently working with >2000 farmers via FPO’s and platform companies like Bharat Mandi.

It would make a lot of sense to collaborate with your FPO’s. To make good quality bio enriched organic manure availability to farmers at an affordable price and also to explore if we could set up projects in their clusters using their biomass.