Team led by Odia scientist Dr Sanjib Kumar Karmee develops pilot scale pyrolysis technology for producing biofuel from wastes

New Delhi: Today, world is facing three critical problems: (i) high fuel prices, (ii) climatic changes, and (iii) air pollution. Energy sources are divided into fossil and renewable. The fossil energy sources are petroleum, coal and natural gas, and the renewable energy sources are solar, biomass, wind, and hydropower, and nuclear and geothermal energies. The global energy demand is growing, so the shortage of energy becomes the main factor of restricting the development of world economy. Energy use is closely linked to a range of social issues, including poverty alleviation, population growth, urbanization, and a lack of opportunities for women. Although these issues affect energy demand, the relationship is two way: the quality and quantity of energy services, and how they are achieved, which have an effect on social issues as well. The term biofuel is referred to as liquid or gaseous fuels for the transport sector that are predominantly produced from biomass. Biofuels are important because they replace petroleum based fuels. Biofuels are generally considered as offering many priorities, including sustainability, reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, regional development, social structure and agriculture, and security of energy supply

In the above context, biomass, in particular forestry (sawdust) and agricultural wastes are best sources to meet the energy demands of the future as it is not only renewable but also environmentally friendly. The energy obtained from biomass is used mainly in heat production, electricity, and as liquid fuels for vehicles. Various advanced technologies have been developed to obtain biofuels and chemicals from biomass, which include the hydrothermal process, pyrolysis, and combustion. Pyrolysis of biomass is one of the most efficient technologies used to produce biofuels. The process is carried out at elevated temperatures under an inert atmosphere which is maintained using either argon or nitrogen gases. The process generates bio-oil, biochar (solid), and pyro-gas (gaseous products).

To conduct pyrolysis experiments the Sardar Patel Renewable Energy Research Institute Anand, Gujarat, India has designed and developed a new pyrolysis plant to produce biofuels from saw dust and agro residues. A team led by Odia Scientist, Dr Sanjib Kumar Karmee of the Thermo-Chemical Conversion Technology Division at the Sardar Patel Renewable Energy Research Institute Anand, Gujarat, India has demonstrated that biomass can be successfully converted into biofuels using both batch and pilot scale system. The newly developed pilot system has industrial significance since it can operate at 15 kg/hr scale. The results of the conducted experiments are published in the Fuel journal (Elsevier).

Karmee earned a PhD from IIT Madras in 2006 and was supervised by Professor Anju Chadha. His PhD work was on the preparation of biodiesel and value added products from crude Pongamia oil. Subsequently, Karmee worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the RWTH Aachen University, Germany and at the Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. The institutions where he has held appointments include: National University of Singapore, City University of Hong Kong and North-West University, Potchefstroom. He joined the Sardar Patel Renewable Energy Research Institute (SPRERI), Anand, Gujarat, in 2018 as a principal scientist and currently heads the Thermo-chemical Conversion Division.